When your car is damaged in an accident, it is sometimes easy to determine who caused the accident and who is responsible for the repairs. What if your car is damaged because of a pothole or a shoulder drop-off? Who is liable for those types of damages?

The easy answer is whoever is responsible for the maintenance of the road is liable for accidents that happen due to the negligence of the road. This means the city, county, or state who “owns” the road is liable. That does not mean you will not have to fight for your right to compensation after an automobile accident. If you are injured by poor road conditions, contact a car accident lawyer today.

What is considered poor road conditions?

Here are a few common issues that are considered as poor road conditions.

  • Potholes
  • Sinkholes
  • Shoulder drop offs
  • Oil (or tar) and chipped roads
    • When these types of roads begin to wear or break up, the tar and rock can chip and damage the paint on your car. Cracking windshields, windows, and mirrors.
  • Construction sites
    • Often, it is the construction company hired to do the job for the city, county, or state that would be liable, unless you can prove they did something or failed to do something that resulted in your car being damaged.
  • Wet, icy, or snow roads
    • This is a poor road condition but is not the fault of the government agency entrusted to care for the road. Unless there is something they have or haven’t done that contributed to the accident, it is not likely you will be awarded compensation in a lawsuit.

Things you should know

  • For you to win cases like the ones mentioned, the government must have known (or should have known) there was a safety issue that needed maintenance or repair. For example, if there is a pothole that has been on the street for months, and many cars have been damaged, and even the news has reported it, the government should have known and corrected it. However, if a sinkhole happens one night and the following day you damaged your car because you did not know it was there, then it is unreasonable to expect that the government had time to discover the sinkhole. In this scenario, the government would not be liable.
  • There are strict time limits on how quickly a claim must be filed. Usually, you have 30 days. You need to send your claim to the right agency. Consequently, sending it to the wrong one still counts against your claim. In California, the claim goes to Caltrans. They have many separate divisions, so do your own research before filing the claim.
  • You can likely find out the proper agency to file your claim by calling your local County Commissioners Office. If they are unable to help you, they can direct you to the right government office.

As with any accident, you will have to prove your case. Take photographs and get information from any witnesses to the accident. File a police report immediately. Find out the proper steps required to file your claim and do them exactly as stated. Your car should be assessed by a qualified mechanic. Some damages (like a bent frame or broken axel) cannot be seen but can be dangerous. Consider hiring a car accident attorney to help you through this process successfully.