Many Indiana drivers regularly express frustration regarding the road conditions throughout the state. Local and state leaders often admit that they can only fix a fraction of what is required to fix a “billion-dollar” problem. Public Works departments can only fix what they can; the rest is left to drivers to avoid. Potholes aren’t going to disappear any time soon and hitting one can be unavoidable. Suppose your car is damaged or you are injured from hitting a pothole. In that case, the state or local government responsible for maintaining that road may be able to be held liable for damage and injuries caused directly by the pothole, but a few other parties could also be involved.
Proving Government Liability
The municipality, city, or state in charge of a road is responsible for providing safe driving routes for residents. However, the accountable entity may not always be liable for damage or injury caused by their streets. When evaluating whether a government is responsible for car damage or injury caused by road conditions, one of the key factors is whether the government knew, or should have known, about the issue. Under Indiana law, the government is granted a reasonable amount of time to discover the problem through individual reports or regular road inspections. In cities like Indianapolis, the number of potholes can be overwhelming for the city to fill. Even if a reported pothole remains unfilled after a month, the city might not be deemed liable. Their response may be reasonable given the fact there are thousands of other potholes that demand their attention as well. To hold the state or local municipality liable, you must prove that the pothole was directly responsible for the damage to your vehicle AND that there was a reasonable amount of time to fix the pothole, yet the government failed to do so. You can help prove the government should have known about the road condition by asking people in your neighborhood whether they have reported the potholes in the past or if they remember bad road conditions from a previous driving experience. In addition to the factual issues that can make it difficult to win a lawsuit for damage or injuries caused by a pothole, there are several procedural hurdles that can prevent your success if you do not act quickly after the accident.
How can you report a pothole?
Road repair request platforms are regularly made available by local municipalities. For example, in Indianapolis, you can report potholes on the request.indy platform, or in Shelbyville, you can do it through the county website.
Potholes can be an everyday experience, but the laws around the state can be complicated. They can frustrate people who have other priorities than reporting the issues themselves or asking others in their community about dangerous road conditions. If your vehicle has been damaged or you have been injured due to hitting a pothole, you may be interested in knowing more about your legal rights and ability to recover for the damages. Do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced attorneys to understand your options and the recovery process better.
This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.