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Can you sue for a pothole-related accident?

Senate Bill 1, passed in 2016, approved billions for road improvements in coming years. Unfortunately, that was no help when your car hit a pothole.

Southern California has some of the poorest road conditions in the nation. If pothole led to an injury accident, could you bring a lawsuit for repairs that were not made?


The pothole fund (SB 1)

This bill provides funding for California roadway improvements in the amount of $5 billion per year across the state. Collectively, the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino can look forward to about $8 billion during the next 10 years for this purpose. The California Transportation Commission has already started on improvements to bridges as well as the pavement on Interstates 5 and 605 plus State Route 1.

Community fixes

Long Beach has its share of street and road projects, and some have been on the list for necessary improvements for a long time, potholes included. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that poorly maintained roads cost drivers an average of $844 per year in vehicle repairs. Potholes can ruin tires, wheel rims, CV joints, axles and steering alignment.

Potholes can also cause serious injury. The jolt can cause whiplash or a concussion. Many crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid potholes or lose control of steering.

Medical bill woes

Seeking medical attention promptly is the right thing to do. Proper diagnosis and treatment of concussion, spinal injury or neck injury is crucial to recovery. But X-rays, CT scans and other diagnostics are expensive, plus rehab or chiropractic treatments, pain management or leave from work. The medical care and lost wages add up quickly.

Legal recourse

All is not lost. You can bring a personal injury claim against the entity responsible for repairing that gaping hole in the pavement. The negligent party might the State of California, Los Angeles County or the municipality – whoever is responsible for maintenance of that stretch of road.

To recover compensation, you would have to prove that road repairs had been neglected – California has a huge backlog of road maintenance -- or that the pothole you hit had been there for weeks or months. Have other people complained? Has it caused other accidents?

Injury claims against governmental bodies are governed by the California Tort Claims Act. Generally, you must file notice of the claim within 6 months of the accident (or discovery of the injury). If not resolved through a settlement, the case would be heard in a California superior court.


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