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Potholes Can Lead to Injury Claims


Potholes form when water seeps into cracks in the road surface, freezes, and then expands, causing the pavement to break apart. Over time, the repeated stress from traffic exacerbates these cracks, leading to the formation of potholes.

Weather conditions, particularly freeze-thaw cycles, play a significant role in pothole formation, making them more prevalent in areas with harsh winters. Additionally, heavy traffic and poor road maintenance can accelerate the deterioration of road surfaces, increasing the likelihood of potholes developing.

Potholes are more than just a nuisance on the road; they can lead to serious injuries, for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.

Potholes Are Hazardous

Potholes pose a significant danger to all road users:

  • For pedestrians, an unexpected dip in the pavement can lead to falls and injuries.
  • Cyclists face the risk of losing control of their bikes, which can result in serious accidents.
  • Drivers, too, are not immune; hitting a pothole at high speed can cause tire blowouts, loss of vehicle control, and collisions.

Common Types of Injuries Caused by Potholes

Striking a pothole can be a jarring experience for drivers, and the impact can cause more than just vehicle damage. In some cases, the sudden force exerted on the car and its occupants can lead to various injuries, including:

  • Whiplash. The abrupt jolt from hitting a pothole can cause the head to whip back and forth rapidly, straining the muscles and ligaments in the neck. This can result in whiplash, the symptoms of which include stiffness, pain, and reduced range of motion in the neck.
  • Back and spine injuries. The forceful impact can also injure the back and spine. This could range from minor strains to more serious injuries like herniated discs, depending on the severity of the pothole and the way the body is positioned at impact.
  • Broken bones. In extreme cases, particularly with deep potholes at high speeds, the force of the impact can be enough to cause fractures in bones, most commonly in the arms, wrists, or ankles.
  • Loss of control and accidents. Perhaps the most significant risk that potholes present drivers with is the potential loss of control of their vehicles. Swerving to avoid a pothole can lead to collisions with other vehicles or objects, potentially resulting in more serious injuries.

Cyclists are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of potholes. Unlike car drivers who benefit from a protective metal frame and suspension system, cyclists are exposed to the full impact of a pothole. Hitting a pothole can send shockwaves right up the handlebars, causing the rider to lose control or swerve erratically. This can be especially dangerous if there's oncoming traffic or the cyclist is riding on a narrow shoulder.

The sudden jolt can also cause injuries to the cyclist. Similar to pedestrians, cyclists who hit potholes risk ankle sprains, muscle strains, and even fractures if they fall. The impact can also cause serious injuries like broken wrists or collarbones if the rider loses control and falls onto the handlebars. In the worst-case scenario, a pothole could cause a cyclist to veer into traffic, leading to a collision with a car.

Pedestrians are just as vulnerable to pothole hazards as cyclists and drivers. While the impact might be different than in a vehicle, potholes can cause a variety of injuries for those on foot. Some common types of injuries pedestrians can sustain from encountering potholes include:

  • Ankle sprains and strains. These are the most frequent injuries caused by potholes. Stepping into a pothole can cause the ankle to roll inwards or outwards, leading to ligament tears and pain.
  • Muscle strains and contusions. The sudden impact of stepping into a pothole can strain muscles in the legs, back, and hips. It can also cause contusions or deep bruises in the impacted areas.
  • Fractures. In severe cases, especially with larger or deeper potholes, a fall caused by a pothole can result in fractures in the leg, ankle, or wrist.
  • Head injuries. If a pedestrian trips or loses balance due to a pothole and falls, there's a risk of hitting their head on the pavement, potentially leading to concussions or more serious injuries.

While not every pothole encounter will result in injury, it's important to be aware of the potential risks. Pothole-related injuries are treatable, but they can cause significant pain and discomfort and sometimes even require medical attention.

Pursuing Compensation & Establishing Liability

It is the duty of municipalities and property proprietors to uphold safe road conditions. However, in cases where this duty is breached, the outcomes can be severe. If a property owner demonstrates negligence by neglecting to rectify or notify others about hazardous property conditions, you have the right to seek redress for your injuries and losses through compensation.

When it comes to pothole-related injuries, establishing liability is crucial for a successful claim. To prove negligence, one must demonstrate that the municipality or property owner failed to maintain the road in a safe condition.

This involves showing that they had a "duty of care" to ensure the safety of road users and that they breached this duty by not addressing the pothole in a timely manner. Evidence such as witness statements, maintenance records, and photographs of the pothole can be instrumental in proving negligence.

In cases where a city, town, or county (i.e., municipality) is responsible for the negligent conditions that caused your injuries, you have to take a few extra steps to pursue compensation. For a claimant to pursue a case, one of the following must be true:

  • A written notice of the pothole was provided to the Commissioner of Transportation.
  • A written acknowledgment of the pothole was provided by the city, and within 15 days of the receipt of this notice, there was a failure to repair or remove the pothole or take reasonable steps to make the road or walkway safe.
  • A previous incident involving property damage or injuries occurred because of the pothole, and written notice was provided to a city agent.

It is also important to note that if you wish to sue a New York city or county, you will need to file a notice of a claim within 90 days. While you have three years to file a dog bite claim against private individuals and companies, there is a shorter statute of limitations when the case involves a government or municipality.

Steps to Take After a Pothole Injury

If you are injured due to a pothole, it is crucial to take immediate action to protect your health and strengthen your potential claim. The first step is to seek medical attention, even if your injuries seem minor. Certain injuries might not manifest immediately, underscoring the importance of seeking a comprehensive evaluation and documentation of your condition by a healthcare professional. Also, capturing your injuries through photographs and maintaining medical records can serve as invaluable evidence to bolster your claim.

Another important step involves documenting the accident scene. Take photos of the pothole, its surroundings, and any apparent injuries. Whenever feasible, obtain contact details from witnesses who can offer testimonies regarding the incident.

These actions contribute to establishing the circumstances surrounding your injury and supporting your assertion of negligence. Timely reporting of the incident to pertinent authorities, such as the local municipality or property owner, is imperative. This not only alerts them to the dangerous situation but also establishes an official record of the event.

Finally, it is advisable to engage a seasoned attorney specializing in personal injury cases and cases akin to yours. They can guide you through your legal rights, the procedural intricacies, and more, ensuring you navigate the process with clarity and confidence.

Quality & Reliable Counsel

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a pothole, it is essential to take immediate action to protect your rights and seek the compensation you deserve. Our dedicated team is committed to helping you gather the necessary evidence, navigate the complexities of filing a claim, and achieve a successful outcome.

Schedule an initial consultation today by calling (516) 628-6402.

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