Florida Crashes Caused by Potholes: Can You Sue the City?

If you’ve ever lived up north, you know potholes are something of a way of life. They’re less ubiquitous here in South Florida, as we don’t have the constant freezing-and-thawing cycles of our northern neighbors. What we do have that erodes our roads significantly is rain.Florida injury crashes

For example on the Gulf Coast, the community of Cape Coral’s record rainfall in 2016 resulted in nearly 3,000 potholes in the span of two months.

Although many cities have procedures you can follow to claim compensation for pothole damage, actually getting reimbursed can be tough. NBC Miami reported that of more than 300 claims made in Miami-Dade over a recent two-year span, only 63 – less than one-third – were reimbursed. The county reportedly repaired more than 26,000 potholes over that time frame. In Broward, there were 17 claims made for pothole vehicle damage, yet only 1 was paid.

Most people eventually give up, as they don’t see it worth the fight for several hundred dollars. However, potholes have been know to cause serious injury to motorists, particularly to motorcyclists or those traveling in road conditions like flooding or at higher speeds.

In those cases, pursuing damages is often worth it, as injuries can be quite severe. Still, because these are claims against government entities (states, counties, cities and towns), there are special considerations. for instance, rather than the four years you’d have to file most injury claims, some government agencies require notice within 30 days. Further, you must file a notice of claim before filing a lawsuit.

In the event a strip of road is under construction, it is the construction company that takes responsibility for any pothole damage.

Why Communities Don’t Invest in Pothole Repair

A report released by the the U.S. PIRG Education Fund revealed that nearly 66 percent of urban roadways are in mediocre-to-poor shape. More than $100 billion a YEAR would be required to bring these roads up to acceptable, improved levels.

Repair of potholes isn’t the kind of flashy, ribbon-cutting-ceremony even toward which politicians flock. Plus, believe it or not, there isn’t a ton of public support, either. New construction tends to get more budgeting, more resources and more attention.

Yet the American Society of Civil Engineers, who graded U.S. roads on safety, driveability and maintenance ranked us at a D-minus.

Many motorists agree that roads and bridges that are broken and decaying are a major risk to those who use them, yet few are willing to expend the taxes necessary to pay for them.

Florida Pothole Injury Crashes

The Florida Department of Transportation reports a growing number of potholes along the interstate, thanks to aging infrastructure and deluges of rain, which can get into the cracks of roadways, seeping into underlying layers and loosening the support layers.

Potholes are more likely to injure those who hit them on motorcycles, bicycles and e-scooters, though they can sometimes cause vehicle accidents too.

In January, a man died after a motorcycle accident in Port St. Lucie reportedly caused when his bike hit a pothole. The accident was severe enough, but the family alleges a little-known Florida law prevents them from filing a lawsuit in that case (allowing only surviving spouses and minor children to bring action in a medical malpractice wrongful death case).

Pursuing Claims for Pothole Crash Injuries

Government agencies – the state of Florida, counties, cities, towns and HOAs (in some gated communities) are responsible for ensuring the road is in safe operating condition. That means they must perform clean-ups, inspections and maintenance when necessary.

Where an agency knows about flaws in the road (or should know), it owes a duty of care to warn motorists about the danger and to take reasonable steps to warn them of the issue. Proving the government knew of a road condition might mean it received actual notification from a citizen or city employee OR that repetition of similar incidents at a single location should have put the government on notice that there was a road defect.

Failure to address this can be evidence of negligence.

Because of notice of claim requirements in Florida injury lawsuits against the government, it’s imperative that you contact a Broward injury attorney as soon as possible after a crash with injuries.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Road Work Ahead, Holding Government Accountable for Fixing, America’s Crumbling Roads and Bridges, April 2010, U.S. PIRG

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