Municipal Liability for Injuries Caused by Potholes in Ohio
In Ohio, potholes are a major hazard during the spring and winter months. They are caused when moisture from snow and rain seeps into cracks in the pavement. Freezing water will expand and through many cycles of freezing and thawing will create potholes. Added to that process, is the constant weight of all the vehicles that pass over the pavement which weakens and crumbles the roadway.
What Types of Damages Are Caused By Potholes?
Most people are very concerned about potholes due to the property damage and personal injuries they cause. The average repair bill for the property damage is $300 and depending on the severity of the damage, accidents caused by potholes are costing people 3 billion dollars annually.
Potholes cause the following damages:
- Flat tires
- Bent wheels
- Steering misalignment
- Suspension damage
- Exhaust system damage
- Engine damage.
Even more serious is that potholes can cause a driver to lose control of her vehicle causing severe injuries to herself and her passengers.
Is The City Liable for An Injury From Hitting a Pothole?
In the State of Ohio, municipalities are required to keep roads repaired and free of hazardous conditions like potholes. This is established by Ohio law, specifically ORC 2744.02. This statute provides that “failure to maintain public roads” can result in liability against the city or town responsible for maintaining the road for injury, death and loss to person or property.
Litigation, however, has brought forth a further requirement of actual or constructive notice for these claims. If making a claim against a city for pothole damage, understand that the city will usually deny the claim arguing no prior knowledge of the pothole. It may also argue that even with actual notice, it did not have a reasonable or sufficient time to repair the pothole before the accident occurred. In essence, the city argues it had neither “actual or constructive notice” of the condition of the pothole.
What Should I Do After An Injury Hitting a Pothole?
If injured by a pothole incident, some cities and the state of Ohio have claim forms used for vehicle damage that may be also used for personal injuries. Report the incidence as soon as possible. As in a car accident, take photos of the pothole, get all contact information of witnesses, and gather all medical records and bills as well as wage loss information.
Always contact a personal injury attorney as the city will always look for ways to get out of personal injuries claims just like property damage claims. An attorney will be able to obtain evidence that proves the city was aware or should have been aware of the pothole holding the city liable and negligently failing to repair it.
Dennis P. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Georgia
Christopher A. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Michigan