Can You Claim for Pothole Damage?
A pothole is a common road defect that can cause serious car accidents, property damage, and personal injuries in West Virginia. It is an underground cavity that can form from eroding earth and asphalt. Potholes can stem from water, wear and tear over time, or a poorly constructed roadway. Running into a pothole as a driver, motorcyclist, or bicyclist could be dangerous and cause thousands of dollars in damages. An individual or entity may be liable for your damages after a collision with a pothole.
Insurance Policies and Pothole Damage
A pothole can make a vehicle lose control on West Virginia roads. A tire colliding with an open hole in the ground could cause a tire blowout, as well as negatively affect alignment, steering, or suspension. An unsuspecting driver could lose control over his or her vehicle after striking a pothole, and collide with nearby objects (such as guardrails or trees) or other vehicles. Pothole accidents can cause a wide range of damages.
- Physical injuries
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Lost wages from missed work
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
After a pothole accident, a victim may call his or her auto insurance company to try to seek benefits for related damages. Insurance coverage for a pothole-related accident, however, will depend on the elements of the policy. Call your insurance company as soon as possible after a pothole accident and ask if your policy covers this type of crash. If so, follow the agent’s rules for filing a claim. You will need to answer questions and potentially provide evidence before the insurer will accept your claim.
Not all insurance policies have collision coverage for pothole damage. Collision coverage is optional in West Virginia. While drivers must carry liability insurance for other people’s injuries and property damage, collision coverage for their own damages is optional. If you did not purchase additional collision coverage prior to your pothole accident, your insurance company likely will not cover damages. Your only other option to make a claim for pothole damage at this point would be a civil claim.
Who Is Liable for a Pothole?
It is the owner of the roadway’s responsibility to reasonably maintain it for the safety of road users. Reasonable maintenance refers to what the average, prudent property owner would do in similar circumstances. The average person likely would not fix a pothole immediately after it happens, for example, but may take a few days or weeks to notice the defect and organize repairs. The courts will determine liability for a pothole-related motor vehicle accident based on what a reasonable and prudent property owner would have done.
Proving that a property owner should have noticed and repaired the pothole prior to the incident may take hiring expert witnesses. A West Virginia auto accident lawyer may hire a roadway maintenance expert, for example, to testify that the property owner or entity in charge of maintaining the roadway reasonably should have fixed the pothole or warned drivers of the danger prior to the accident. It is the plaintiff’s lawyer’s job to prove to a judge or jury that the property damage would not have happened but for the property owner’s negligent failure to fix the pothole.
Many pothole accidents come down to government liability, since the government owns and is responsible for maintaining public roads. If your accident happened on a public highway or roadway, you may have grounds to file a personal injury or property damage claim with the city’s insurance company. Although claims against the government have special rules in most states, they are the same as typical claims in West Virginia. You have two years from the date of your accident to file your claim against the city with the municipal court. A lawyer can help expedite the claims process.