Usually, when you're involved in a car accident, it is fairly obvious who the responsible party is.
The responsible party may try to deny it, but it's usually solved pretty quickly.
If you're rear-ended, the person that hit you from behind is at fault.
Someone swerve out of their lane and hit you going down the freeway? Their fault.
A drunk driver hit you on your way home? Obviously their fault.
However, some instances aren't so cut and dry.
Sometimes, poor road conditions like potholes, missing guardrails, and erosion can be the cause of your accident.
Knowing who you can sue and if you even can sue afterward is when it gets a little complicated.
The first thing you'd have to do is prove that the road conditions caused the accident.
Then, once, you can prove that you have to show that the government agency responsible for maintaining the roads was negligent in keeping the roads safe.
Or you have to prove that the agency at least failed to warn drivers about the unsafe conditions.
Then you have to be sure too much time hasn't passed since the accident happened.
Yeah, it gets a little complicated.
We'll discuss it in more detail below.
Table Of Contents
- Who Is Responsible For Maintenance?
- Proving Negligence
- Determining The Cause Of Damage Or Injury
- Can You Sue The Agency?
- Statute Of Limitations
- Hire An Experienced Attorney
Who Is Responsible For Maintenance?
The first step is deciding who is responsible for maintaining the road that caused your accident.
Roads are maintained by the cities, counties, and states they reside in.
Different maintenance responsibilities for certain roads can be shared by multiple agencies.
For example, the state might be responsible for filling potholes and paving the road, while the city is responsible for plowing and de-icing the road.
That will not only determine who is to be sued but if they can even be sued at all.
Now that you've determined which agency is responsible for the issue that caused your accident, you have to prove they were negligent.
This often isn't easy.
You have to prove that the agency could have, and should have, repaired the road but didn't repair it for whatever reason.
As an example, your state might have chosen to cut back on funding for road repair, leaving numerous potholes littered in their roadways.
If you wrecked because you hit a pothole that should have been filled, your state could be liable for the damage done to your car.
There are some instances where the agency won't be held responsible.
If you live in a mountainous area, and a rock falls from the mountain onto the road, but the agency had no way to discover the rock before you hit it, they will not be found liable.
Determining The Cause of Damage or Injury
Before you move forward, you have to be absolutely sure that the poor conditions caused your accident.
You also have to be able to prove it, and this can be increasingly difficult, especially when it comes to vehicle damage.
Damage to your car caused by a pothole or road debris might be not immediately noticed and can be hard to trace back to where it happened.
That would make it even more difficult to determine what specifically in the road caused the damage.
If this is the case, the agency will be able to argue that other factors may have caused the accident such as poor weather or poor driving.
Can You Sue The Agency?
Once you've checked everything above off of your list, it's time to determine if the agency is even allowed to be sued.
Most government agencies, including the state and federal government, have immunity from lawsuits.
This means that they can't be sued. When applied to the federal and state government, it's called sovereign immunity.
When applied to the city, county, and smaller governments, it's called governmental immunity.
Although they can be immune, most government agencies will make exceptions and allow themselves to be sued.
Typically, negligence in maintaining a roadway will create an exception to immunity and allow you to sue.
However, you are likely to be still limited in what you can do.
The negligent must be considered gross, or extremely negligent, or your municipality must have purchased insurance to cover the type of lawsuit.
The state government will usually set the rules for when smaller agencies can be sued, so the rules typically won't vary within the state.
Statute Of Limitations
The statute of limitations will also have a significant impact on whether or not you will be allowed to sue the government agency responsible.
This isn't unique to cases like these because virtually all legal actions have a time limit that you have to meet if you want to be able to sue. This is called the statute of limitations.
If you're unable to start the lawsuit before the deadline set by the statute of limitations, the court will not allow you to sue.
Most states will have a very short statute of limitations, so it is imperative that you start your lawsuit as soon as possible.
Usually, for injury based claims it can last anywhere between six months to two years.
It's essential that you look up your state's statute of limitations right away.
Your state may also require you to notify the responsible agency with your intention to sue before the case can begin.
That means you have to let the state agency know you are going to sue them and why you're going to sue them before the statute of limitations expires.
Do this as soon as possible, because you will still need to start the lawsuit before the time runs out as well.
Hire An Experienced Attorney
If this all sounds complicated, it's because it is.
Situations like this with multiple moving parts are almost too much to handle.
That's why you need to hire an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.
The attorneys at The Roth Firm have years of experience handling cases like this, and they are ready to help you with yours.
If you're ready to get started, just click the button below.