Who is Liable When Potholes Cause an Accident?

Multiple parties may be liable for pothole-related accidents, including the driver, tire manufacturer, and the local government authority responsible for road maintenance.

Potholes caused extensive damage to one in ten American vehicles in 2021. Drivers had to repair their cars twice a year due to the pothole damage, costing an average of nearly $600 per repair. Vehicle repairs from pothole damages cost drivers $26.5 billion in 2021.

Working with an experienced car accident attorney at Cofman Townsley can help you determine who is liable for your pothole-related repairs and other damage to your vehicle.

Driver Liability

Under Missouri law, drivers on public roads must use the highest degree of care at all times. The highest degree of care is the level of care, skill, and foresight a reasonably careful and prudent driver would exercise in their conduct. Driving behavior must follow this standard, including watching out for possible dangers like potholes and slowing down, stopping, or swerving around them.

If a driver strikes a pothole and hits your vehicle, legal responsibility may rest on whether the driver tried to exercise the highest degree of care to prevent an accident. Your attorney can determine the driver’s actions by reviewing the police report and obtaining security footage from commercial businesses near the accident site.

Tire Manufacturer

The impact of your vehicle tire hitting a pothole may cause it to rupture and damage the rim. If your attorney’s investigation revealed that the tire blowout resulted from improper installation or defect, you might file a product liability claim against the manufacturer. To prove your claim, you and your attorney must demonstrate the following elements:

  • The product was defective at the time of its reasonable use without your knowledge of its characteristics.
  • The defect caused your injuries and you suffered damages from using the product.

Your attorney can provide evidence of the defect in the tire with pictures and videos of how it caused a dangerous condition like a blowout resulting in your injuries. They can also refer to the tire manufacturer’s lack of safety warnings and recalls to take corrective action for a defective tire.

Parking Lot Owners

Property owners should inspect their parking lots for potholes and resurface them when necessary. If an owner fails to take the steps needed to repair potholes in their parking lots, they may be liable for injuries resulting from unsafe conditions.

In Missouri, a premises liability claim must have these elements:

  • The property owner was an active owner of the premises or property at the time of the injury or accident.
  • You must have been an invitee or a customer visiting the property.
  • The negligent owner failed to repair the pothole or give adequate warnings.
  • The property owner’s negligence caused your injuries.

For instance, an unrepaired pothole may cause your vehicle to jerk and slam your skull into the steering wheel, resulting in severe injuries like fractures and brain injuries. You and your attorney must link the owner’s negligence to your injuries for you to file a premises liability claim.

State Government

If the pothole is on a state road or a highway, you can file a claim with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT). You can claim compensation for damage to your vehicle by filling out MoDOT’s online claim form. The state government will investigate your claim after submission and reimburse you for damages to your vehicle.

However, the state can only accept your claim if you can prove a public road had a dangerous condition and the state failed to take corrective action.

For example, if a large pothole has existed on a public road for months and damaged multiple vehicles, witness statements and surveillance footage from nearby buildings can build a solid foundation for your claim. Your attorney can work with you to put together your claim against the government and help you gain compensation.

Start Your Claim with a Missouri Car Accident Lawyer

Various parties can cause a pothole-related accident, and an attorney can help determine the appropriate legal action against them. The car accident attorneys at Cofman Townsley can investigate your case and ensure you receive fair compensation for vehicle repairs, lost wages, and medical bills related to your injuries. 

Contact us for a free consultation and let us help you begin your claim.