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Old 04-15-2002, 03:02 PM
bernse bernse is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: In bed with your mom!
Posts: 4,127
Can I sue the city for damage potholes cause?

This is more a hypothetical than anything.

The small (<50K people) city in which I live has a terrible pothole problem this spring.

No, let me rephrase. It has an un-freakin believable pothole problem this year. I have done my share of travelling and living in other cities and it is easily the worst I have ever seen. It is *impossible* to drive down any semi-main road in this city without hitting several during a 3 block drive. I am not exaggerating when I say this in the slightest.

Lets say a person is driving at a "safe" speed during rush hour and you are suddenly confronted with a large group of potholes of lets say, 3-4 inches deep (we have many that large, if not larger). They are unavoidable. If you swerve, you hit the car next to you or the curb. If you brake, you get rearended. So, you slow as best you can but take the hit. Rim/tire damaged. Maybe suspension and front end is too.

Can you sue the city for damages?
Old 04-15-2002, 03:12 PM
Guy Propski Guy Propski is offline
Join Date: May 1999
Location: Havertown, PA USA
Posts: 1,747
I believe you'd have to prove that (1) the city was aware of the situation, and (2) they had no plans to do anything about it. Of course, IANAL, and I'm drawing upon the memory of an old episode of "The Paper Chase".......
Old 04-15-2002, 03:28 PM
lucwarm lucwarm is offline
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 2,789
You would need to check state & city laws to determine the extent that sovereign immunity has been waived. Many (most?) municipalities are sovereign-immunity waived for personal injuries arising from defects in the road. I'm not so sure about property damage.

Note that there is frequently a VERY short time-frame for filing claims against municipalities.

(standard disclaimer about legal advice)
Old 04-15-2002, 03:34 PM
barbitu8 barbitu8 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Charleston, SC
Posts: 5,820
Of course you can sue the City. You can even sue me. But whether you can receive a favorable judgment is another question. As LUCWARM stated you have to check your local laws. Most cities do allow claims, but to a limited amount of damages, and they carry insurance for them. Here, in Charleston, SC, the city is sued many times a year. I guess they figure it's cheaper to pay the increased insurance rates than fix the goddamn potholes, cracked sidewalks, and general disrepair of their property.
There are 10 kinds of people in this world: those who understand binary numbers and those who don't.
Old 04-15-2002, 03:37 PM
wring wring is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 13,398
actually in my area, that's a fairly common lawsuit.

First, you have to demonstrate, however, that the city was alerted to that particular pothole. (ie keep record of your call). they have to have had sufficient time to deal w/it (in other words, don't call in am and expect it to be filled same day).

But, yes, in my jurisdiction, (Michigan) happens all the time.
Old 04-15-2002, 03:51 PM
gazpacho gazpacho is offline
Join Date: Oct 1999
Posts: 5,647
wring, Do most people win these suits against the cities? What kinds of settlements do they get.
Old 04-15-2002, 04:17 PM
wring wring is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 13,398
The settlements that I've heard of aren't for very much - generally the cost of a re-alignment or something of that nature (provided of course that people can demonstrate the work was done).

It's not something you do to 'make' money, but to be compensated for your loss (ie the loss of a hubcap, the realignment costs etc.). So, none of them are for very much. General 'wear & tear' isn't generally compensated.

Have I used the word "general" sufficient times?
Old 04-15-2002, 05:11 PM
lucwarm lucwarm is offline
Join Date: Sep 2000
Posts: 2,789
Originally posted by wring
actually in my area, that's a fairly common lawsuit.

First, you have to demonstrate, however, that the city was alerted to that particular pothole.
There's a legend that NYC passed a requirement like this to stem the tide of personal-injury suits against the city for sidewalk defects. Well, according to the legend, a bunch of prominent personal-injury lawyers got together and hired a few people to inspect, on a continual basis, every sidewalk in the 5 boros. The City is then notified of every crack, every pothole, etc.
Old 04-15-2002, 05:38 PM
Diceman Diceman is offline
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Suburbs of Detroit, MI
Posts: 9,859
I can second wring's statement. In Michigan, it's not uncommon for people to sue because some car-eating monster pothole has punctured a tire or damaged their vehicle's suspension. I don't know how often these suits succeed, however.
Reality is an illusion caused by lack of alcohol.
Old 04-15-2002, 05:48 PM
handy handy is offline
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Pacific Grove, Calif
Posts: 17,493
I thought you have to ask the City for the money first, before you can sue them? THis would
probably be a small claims thing, which requires you ask the party for the money first.
Old 04-15-2002, 09:28 PM
Telemark Telemark is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Again, Titletown
Posts: 20,540
NYC Pothole reporting form:


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