If you experience an accident or suffer damage caused directly by a pothole in Alabama, who is liable for your damages and can you get compensation in a lawsuit?
More often than not, the government enjoys sovereign immunity from civil lawsuits. It will be very difficult to sue the city or the state because of poor road conditions, but there are special instances when it is possible. You can also sue road contractors and other parties.
What Dangers do Potholes Pose in Alabama?
Potholes are usually a nuisance when you have to drive slowly and evasively. However, if you come across one unexpectedly, there is a long list of dangers and damages it can cause.
- Wheel damage – Tires take damage from potholes resulting in punctures, excessive wear, or punctures down the road. Modern aluminum rims also sustain damage more frequently.
- Suspension damage – Repeated running through potholes causes premature wear of the car’s suspension, frame, and mountings.
- Alignment issues – Your vehicle could come out of alignment and cause uneven wear or unsafe driving such as pulling in one direction.
- Undercarriage damage – Deep potholes can cause the undercarriage to hit the ground and damage components such as the exhaust, oil sump, hydraulic fluid lines, and more.
- Increased accident risk – Potholes significantly increase the risk of car accidents as drivers swerve to avoid them.
Statistics suggest that poor roads in Alabama cause $382 in additional vehicle operating costs. Even more worrying, accidents have been on the rise, and road features are among the top three causes of car accidents, after driver fault and vehicle characteristics.
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Can You Sue the City or State for Damage Caused by Potholes?
No, you cannot sue the city for damage caused to your car. However, the State of Alabama allows you to file a claim with the Board of Adjustment. The Board determines whether your case has merit, and it does advise you to consult a lawyer before filing a claim.
The Board handles both property damage and personal injury claims resulting from poor road conditions such as potholes.
However, you can file a car accident liability claim if it resulted in injury or death and was caused directly by poor road conditions, like potholes. You will need to show that the government was negligent in its duty to restore roadways, walkways, and other road features.
The Government Is Responsible for Poor Road Conditions
Did you know that you can also sue the government for not maintaining roads and road features?
In general, the city is responsible for maintaining roadways and sidewalks, while the state takes care of interstate roads. Sometimes, these agencies also hire private contractors to maintain roads and perform functions such as snow plowing.
Even before you consider filing a lawsuit, you need to know which agency is directly responsible for the act or omission that led to the potholes, which in turn caused your car accident.
When to Sue the Government for Pothole Accidents
Potholes are inevitable. Many of them appear after winter, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the government was negligent.
The authorities who run every road are responsible for its maintenance and repair. If you can prove that the city or state could and should have fixed the pothole(s) that led to the accident, then you have a legal basis for suing them.
If you are going to sue a government agency for personal injury after an accident caused by potholes, you need to have a solid case proving their negligence. That means showing that the government knew about the potholes and failed to fix them in a reasonable amount of time. Here are some things you will need to be prepared to show:
- Show that the city or state you’re suing legally owns or controls the unsafe road you were using,
- Show proof (usually photos or video) that the road was unsafe at the time you had the accident,
- Finally, prove the government institution failed to fix the issue properly after reporting.
- If there was some amount of driver error in the accident as well, you may not be able to file a suit since Alabama is a no-fault state.
In the case of sudden conditions like storms and tree falls, you have to show that the government should have reasonably anticipated that it could cause a problem and failed to either fix it or provide sufficient warning.
Alabama’s Contributory Negligence Laws
Even if your accident was caused by a pothole, the state or city may not be wholly responsible. In fact, some of the blame may get pinned on you! Let’s say you encountered a deep pothole suddenly, which caused you to swerve and hit other cars, but you were also speeding.
Alabama is a fault and applies contributory negligence. If you’re found to have any blame in the incident, you might miss the compensation entirely. Alabama’s harsh law is unlike most other states that calculate the percentage of fault and award damages accordingly.
This is why you need a strong car accident lawyer in Alabama. Your case must be watertight, especially when suing against the government. If you are in any doubt, call our expert team at Morris Bart today for a free consultation.
Special Rules for Filing Claims Against the Government
Every state has special rules that apply to lawsuits filed against government institutions. In Alabama, these rules apply:
- File a special “administrative claim” with the responsible agency before you can sue in a court of law.
- You can only file a claim in a state court.
- You need to notify the city or government agency in writing about your accident and how much compensation you want. In most cases, you have to do that within six months.
- Check that the city or state government doesn’t have its own forms that you need to fill while you make the claim.
- After you file the claim, the government gets 30–45 days to respond. Sometimes it might determine that your case is valid and pay you some or all of the compensation you want.
- If the government rejects the claim or offers too little compensation, you have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim against the government.
It is also important to figure out whether your claim is against the State or an agent of the state, such as an employee. Claims against the State are often barred by sovereign immunity except in special circumstances, while claims against a State agent are a different matter altogether.
Let Alabama Personal Injury Lawyers Help
Filing a lawsuit against the State of Alabama due to damage or accidents caused by potholes is often impossible. The best you can expect is that the Adjustment Board will pay the compensation you want upon notification.
However, failure to maintain a road or remove dangers is considered wrongful conduct, which is a basis for a claim in special circumstances. Get your free consultation with Morris Bart’s personal injury lawyers today to find out who is liable for your damages and determine if you have a case against the city or state.
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