If you live in Fall River, New Bedford, Somerset, Taunton, or the surrounding area, then we certainly don’t have to tell you that potholes are everywhere. They’re nearly unavoidable, to the point that drivers spend more time watching the road inches ahead of them, than the cars on the road.
That’s a recipe for disaster. Yet still, even with so much focus on the roads, drivers in Southeastern Massachusetts struggle to avoid damaging their cars because of potholes.
Here’s what you should know about city potholes, and what you should do if you hit one.
Cities in Massachusetts are not insurers
If you have certain types of coverage, such as collision and comprehensive, then your insurance company will pay the costs of damages without regard to fault. If you paid extra cash for collision, then it’s not an issue of who’s at fault following an incident; your insurer will pay for your damages.
That’s not the case with cities. When you hit a pothole in Fall River, for example, that incident is legally considered as a defect in a public way.
As such, there is certain protocol that the city (and you) must abide by. Just because your car suffered damage and you filed a claim, doesn’t mean Fall River will pay out. There’s a lot more work to be done, including:
1. File a report within 30 days. By law, you have to file a report and make your claim within 30 days of the incident. When you file your claim, you must be as specific as possible (pictures are fantastic) by including such information as the day of the incident, the time it occurred, and, of course, the exact location.
2. Endure a negligence analysis. Fall River (or any other city in the Bay State, for that matter) will then proceed with a negligence analysis. This involves several elements, including:
- Did the city have any notice about the pothole? Was it ever reported to the city, so that they were made aware of it?
- If the city was notified of the pothole prior to your incident, did they have reasonable time to make the repair? In the end, a judge or jury would determine if enough time was allotted.
- Was the pothole the sole cause of damage? What if there was evidence that a car in the lane beside you forced you to move closer to the edge of the road. Then the city can argue the pothole wasn’t the sole cause of damage to your car.
Cities won’t payout willingly, so be prepared for a fight
Cities don’t just pay out because a claim was filed. If they followed that practice, they’d go broke in a heartbeat. The money used to pay claims comes from an allocated budget; meaning city officials are very careful how they spend it.
If you have coverage on your car, it might make sense to follow that route first, rather than seek compensation from the city. Keep in mind, as well, that in Massachusetts, there is a spending cap on how much a city is liable to pay for any damage or injuries incurred. Even if your car suffered $9,000 worth of damage, or you were injured and are dealing with astronomical medical bills, the city is only liable to pay up to $5,000.
Although there are many obstacles in the road ahead, you can still get compensation from the city for damages caused by a pothole. Contact the Law Offices of Sabra and Aspden today to learn more about how we can provide you the best personal injury defense against insurers and municipalities.
We encourage you to contact the Law Offices of Sabra & Aspden to learn more about how we help clients throughout Southeastern, MA and Rhode Island navigate the legal system. Contact us today at 508-674-0890 or email @ [email protected].