Pothole accidents are becoming more and more common. At last estimate, Americans spend $3 billion a year on damages that result from 55 million potholes on our roads. Increased use of roadways, especially in urban areas of Maryland, causes the cement to erode, opening up holes in the ground that can be hazardous to motor vehicles and their occupants. Potholes occur due to the natural freeze-thaw cycle and the wear and tear from vehicle traffic.
Road infrastructure plays a significant role in ensuring safe transportation, and potholes are a common hazard that can lead to accidents and injuries. They can cause serious accidents, especially for cyclists and motorcyclists who are particularly vulnerable to such road conditions. Maryland has a lot of motorists and freezing temperatures. So, no surprise, it is 7th in the nation in pothole complaints.
Sometimes, a pothole can be so deep that it causes a car to lose control, leaving the occupants seriously injured, or worse, dead. Due to the danger of devastating injuries, pothole accident cases may be worth a substantial amount of money. However, most pothole claims against the city or county end in a small settlement amount or, more likely, no compensation.
This article will address:
- The Hazards of Pothole Accidents
- The Types of Pothole Accidents That Lead to Injury Claims
- How Good Are My Chances at Suing the State or County in These Cases?
- Verdicts and Settlements in Pothole-Related Injury Claims
The Hazards of Pothole Accidents
Potholes pose a significant hazard for motorists, especially those operating on busy roads at higher rates of speed. Potholes form due to high levels of heat and pressure caused by the constant flow of quick-moving motorists in heavy vehicles. They can often reach depths of 20 inches deep and 15 inches in diameter and are worsened by abundant rainfall, extreme weather, and the pounding they get from big rig trucks.
If the state, town, or county fails to maintain the road properly, some treacherous potholes may occur. Even small potholes can cause extensive damage to both the vehicle that hits it and the occupants of that vehicle.
Pothole cases are never easy. But our law firm handles serious injury and wrongful death claims. If you have suffered a severe injury from a pothole, it is worth calling us to explore your options.
The condition of our roads has gotten worse in recent years. Why? The downturn in the economy has led to budget shortfalls. In Maryland, things got a little better with the economy improving and the ridiculous revenues from the casinos. Now with COVID-19, Maryland is going to have even less than its already paltry budget to fix potholes.
If you are a Baltimore resident, you have been on the pothole roller coaster. There have always been just awful roads. When our lawyers pull out of our law offices and turn on Pratt Street, the first thing we do is hit a huge pothole that has been there for years. When this happens, people get angry and want to sue the city for pothole damage.
The more potholes, the greater likelihood that there is a motor vehicle accident. There are some ways that potholes might cause severe auto accidents. The potholes themselves may cause the vehicle damage, or worse, cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle, swerving into other motorists. Also, a motorist who sees a large pothole in his way may swerve out of the way to avoid it, and collide with other vehicles. If the weather is inclement and the roads are wet, such a maneuver can have deadly consequences and result in serious injuries and fatalities.
How to Get Pothole Property Damage Paid in Maryland?
In theory, the State of Maryland will pay your property damage claim from a pothole accident. You just file a written claim to the Maryland Treasury Department. For more information on how to do this, you can call 410-260-7684 or 800-942-0162.
But here’s the catch. Even if you get the claim within their draconian limitations period to put them on proper notice of a claim (and potentially to file a claim) you must prove that the Maryland Department of Transportation knew about the pothole. Now, proving your case is easy if you file a lawsuit and conduct discovery. But that process would cost more than the property damage that you have in the vast majority of cases.
We have not seen statistics on how many of this pothole property damage claims the State of Maryland has paid. But the best guess? Not much.
Pothole Crash Injuries
The biggest risk of serious injury and death is, not surprisingly, when you are hitting a pothole on a motorcycle. The sudden, unexpected drop can cause even the most careful biker to turn over the bike. At high speed – at any speed, really – this can lead to disaster.
What Are the Most Common Pot Hole Injury Cases?
The following are common types of accidents involving pothole incidents:
- A motorist drives over a large, deep pothole and his right front wheel becomes entrenched in the hole, causing his vehicle to spin or flip over.
- A driver stops short to avoid driving over a large pothole without giving the motorist behind him enough time to stop, thereby causing a rear-end collision.
- A driver swerves to his left to avoid running over a pothole, sideswiping a vehicle in the adjacent lane.
- A pedestrian walking on the street or the sidewalk may even step in a pothole and incur serious injuries.
Do I Have a Shot of Making a Pothole Caused My Accident Claim?
Let’s be brutally honest here. First, you are going to have a hard time finding an attorney to handle an “I hit a pothole, crashed my car, and now want to bring an injury” claim. Our lawyers do not take pothole claims.
First, there are tough claims to make. You are going to face motions to dismiss when you file the case, and motions for summary judgment before trial that are going to try to defeat your claim before it ever goes to a jury. Second, there are notice requirements when suing the state, cities, or counties in Maryland which often means you have missed your chance to file suit. Finally, there are also problems getting the money you deserve because you are almost always suing the government in these cases. The state of Maryland, for example, caps verdicts in these cases at $200,000 with few exceptions.
So what kind of cases does our firm take that involve crashes because the road was in poor condition? We only consider very serious injury and wrongful death cases where we believe we can link the pothole or defect in the road to the injuries that were suffered.
Example Defective Road-Related Verdicts and Settlements
- 2021, Massachusetts: $100,000 Verdict. A woman exited her vehicle in a mall parking lot. She tripped over a pothole. The woman twisted her ankle. She suffered right ankle tearing and right foot damage. The woman alleged negligence against the mall. She claimed its staff failed to warn of the hazardous conditions. The woman received a $100,000 verdict.
- 2021, Connecticut: $45,956 Verdict. A woman walked along a sidewalk. She tripped and fell over a pothole. The woman injured her back, neck, elbows, and knees. The woman sustained spinal radiculopathy and headaches. She alleged negligence against the City of Stamford. She claimed it failed to inspect, maintain, and properly light the sidewalk. The woman received $45,956.
- 2021, Texas: $19,789 Verdict. A woman tripped and fell into a pothole in a parking lot. She fractured her ankle. The woman alleged negligence against the parking lot’s owners. She claimed they failed to maintain safe premises. The woman received a $19,789 verdict.
- 2021, Washington: $1,760,000 Verdict. A 47-year-old motorcyclist struck a pothole at a construction site. He fractured his fibula, ankle, and wrist. The man sustained arthritis. He walked with a permanent limp. The man was left with emotional trauma. He alleged negligence against the contractor. He claimed they created hazardous conditions and failed to warn drivers of these conditions. The jury awarded $1,760,000.
- 2021, New Jersey: $10,000 Settlement. A boy biked around a neighborhood. He struck a pothole and fell. He suffered personal injuries. The boy’s parents alleged negligence against the township. They alleged that it failed to fix the pothole. This case settled for $10,000.
- 2021, Florida: $663,472 Verdict. A couple struck a water-filled pothole in a restaurant parking lot. They suffered severe injuries. The couple alleged negligence against the restaurant. They claimed failed to maintain, inspect, and correct the hazardous condition. The jury awarded $663,472.