A pothole can form from the effects of weathering and erosion over time, or because of a poorly designed roadway with infrastructure problems. Ignored potholes can widen and deepen, creating significant hazards for drivers and bicyclists. Striking a pothole could cause significant vehicle damage or an auto accident. Potholes can cause tire blowouts, alignment problems, bent rims, loss of vehicle control, and overturn accidents. It is up to the entity that owns the road to inspect for potholes and make repairs in a timely manner. On public roads, this entity is typically the county. Contact an Orange County car accident attorney for a free case consultation.
Orange County Responsibilities to Drivers
Like other pieces of property, roadways fall under the control and responsibility of the owner. The county or state owns most public roads, while private property owners own other roads. If your vehicle sustains damage from a pothole on a county-owned road, the county may be responsible for your damages. The county is the government agency whose duty it is to reasonably maintain safe roadways. This duty can involve many different responsibilities to drivers.
- Periodically inspecting roads for hazards
- Repairing cracked or damaged roads
- Filling in potholes or replacing pieces of the road
- Repainting faded lines
- Replacing missing or damaged reflectors
- Clearing away debris after a storm or car accident
- Responding to complaints in a timely manner
What the law expects of the county depends on what a reasonable and prudent county would do in the same circumstances. During a property damage claim involving a pothole, the California courts will examine what the county should have done about the roadway defect based on the factors of the case. If the courts find that the county should have known about the potential hazards of the pothole and done something to repair the damage prior to the accident, the county may be liable.
Filing a Claim Against the Government in California
Filing a claim against the county or another government entity comes with different rules and regulations than standard damage claims. You have the right to bring a claim based on negligence, intentional wrongs, and breach of contract. Under the California Tort Claims Act, you have six months from the date of your accident to file a claim. This is significantly shorter than the two-year statute of limitations on standard personal injury claims. If you miss your six-month deadline, you will typically lose the right to file.
To bring your claim, you will need to mail a written notice of intent to file to the county responsible for maintaining the roadway. The notice should include your full name, mailing address, location of the pothole, and a description of your accident. It should also include a description of your property damages or personal injuries. Your notice should claim your losses if they are under $10,000, or state that a lawsuit will be a limited civil case for more than $10,000. A lawyer can help you fill out complex paperwork regarding your claim against the county.
Proving Liability For Pothole Damages in Orange County, CA
After you file your pothole damage claim, the county will have 90 days to issue a response. If the county accepts your claim and offers a settlement, you and your lawyer can enter into settlement negotiations for a fair value. If the county denies your claim or refuses to reach a satisfactory settlement agreement, your lawyer may be able to take your case to court. You and your attorney will need to prove that the county owed you a duty of care, breached this duty by failing to fix the pothole, and thus contributed to your car accident. Your Riverside car accident attorney can help you prove your case by gathering evidence such as photographs of the pothole, copies of reports other drivers submitted to the county about the problem, and property damage records from mechanics.