Ever hit a big time pothole that causes damage to your car or yourself severe enough to warrant expensive repair? Driving over a pothole typically does not result in this situation as we all know from hitting them on a daily basis. Given the right car, the right size hole, the right speed and, in extreme cases, the right bodily condition, however, and you could be facing a financial hit that may be almost as sizable as the anger boiling up inside you at those responsible for the pothole.
The first thing you need to know is that the city, county, state or federal government in charge of repairing potholes to avoid this situation is given exemption from suit thanks to a nifty little protective device constructed by them to protect them called sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is there to keep the potentially millions of dollars caused to vehicles every day by pothole damage out of court. But sovereign immunity is comprehensive immunity. If you suffer damage to your body or your car as a result hitting a pothole, you can sue the government authority at fault. And you may win.
The first thing to do is find out which level of government has authority over the road. Then locate the local, county, state or federal government building and appropriate agency within to which you file papers with the intent to sue for damage. Filing the papers to launch a suit should be done as soon as possible since part of the sovereign immunity plan that does allow for the chance to get restitution is the inclusion of a time limit. This limit could potentially be as little as thirty days after the accident occurred, so do not dawdle.
The key to getting past sovereign immunity is convincing the prevailing authority that you are very serious. This has less to do with how much money you are seeking as compensation for damages than that you are making efforts to show the extent of that damage and the extent to which the government is at fault. How can you do this? Well, that’s the rub.
It is going to mean turning off your “Mad Men” but you can still keep your iPad. In fact, a tablet computer may come in handy. Why? Because you want take a picture of the pothole, preferably immediately. Take note of the date and time of the accident and, if possible, get several photos from different perspectives of the pothole on that day. If you can’t get a photo the day of the accident, waste no time in getting at least one picture. Even a bare bones camera phone will provide at least the evidence of the condition of the pothole.
If the pothole is on a neighborhood street, interview residents of that neighborhood to determine if any official complaint was ever registered and if the government failed to respond. You may need to engage the services of a lawyer to determine government oversight at best and willful failure to address the situation at worst. Go to any lengths necessary that won’t cost you more than just paying for the damage to discover if the governing authority charged with upkeep of the roads explicitly failed to take the steps necessary to keep the roads in safe condition.
You may also need a lawyer for the purpose of determining the laws in place related to how long a pothole can be remain unrepaired following the lodging of an official complaint. If, for instance, a law is on the books requiring repair of a pothole within one week of an official complain and you can prove the damage done to you or car occurred later than a week after the complaint, you definitely improve your chances of getting justice.