Whether you drive a long distance daily to and from work or you only get out on weekends or holidays, safe road conditions are crucial to ensuring your safety on the road. Unfortunately, road conditions can be dangerous. Whether caused by bad weather or a lack of maintenance, cracked asphalt and concrete can create dangerous potholes that you do not see and can increase the likelihood of a car accident.
When you get into a car accident, you may be able to collect compensation from the negligent driver. However, when an accident is caused by the road itself, it may be difficult to determine who is liable.
The government is responsible for maintaining the roads within their jurisdiction. Just like when you get into an accident caused by another driver who failed to drive safely and avoid a crash, the government is required to safely maintain roads and respond promptly to any dangers which may exist. These dangers include potholes. If a government agency does not adequately maintain their roads and fix potholes in a timely manner, not only could the pothole contribute to or be the direct cause of your accident, the government could also be held liable and potentially owe you compensation.
A government agency may be responsible for maintaining the road and keeping it safe for you to drive on. This could include the city, county, municipality, or Virginia itself. Because the government agency is responsible for maintaining the road, they could also be responsible for any injuries suffered as a result of the pothole.
To prove the government should have been better at maintaining the road, you need to show that they knew or should have known of the dangerous condition on the road. This may not be simple, as it may be hard to tell when the pothole first appeared. If there is a report of someone calling to report the dangerous condition, then that makes your proof much easier.
Knowing when the pothole appeared is crucial to your case. The government must have adequate time to repair the dangerous condition. For example, if the pothole appeared overnight and you hit it on your way to work the next morning, that is probably not enough time for the government to take action.
Reporting Your Accident
If you do not suffer any injuries in a pothole accident, you may elect to report your pothole accident to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Taking this route could see you get reimbursement for your car repairs. This is not a good approach to take if you have suffered injuries.
When you file a report with the VDOT, you will need to provide them with:
- Photos documenting the pothole and its location.
- Photos documenting the damage to your car.
- Written estimates or receipts of repair work.
- Any other relevant and supporting documentation.
After the VDOT has received your claim submission, they will not automatically reimburse you. They will first conduct an investigation of the incident, seeking to determine if the pothole had been reported or seen and if their crews had adequate time to repair the pothole. If they conclude that the time that lapsed between the pothole being reported and the time of your incident was too little to give them adequate time to repair the pothole, you will probably not be able to get reimbursed. If, however, their investigation determines that there was adequate time to repair the pothole but it was not done, then you may be able to get reimbursed for the damage to your vehicle.
Damage Caused by Pothole Accidents
No matter what kind of vehicle you drive, potholes can deflate tires, ruin suspension, damage an axle, and cause serious injuries. While potholes may not seem like a serious road hazard, they could leave you with long lasting injuries.
Usually, you see a pothole at the last minute, so you may attempt to swerve to avoid hitting the pothole. However, doing that can put you and other cars around you at risk of an accident and injury.
Here are the most common damages people suffer from when hitting a pothole:
- Whiplash: This is one of the most common car accident injuries and can occur when you hit a pothole. Your head is whipped around by the violent and sudden dipping caused by the pothole. Whiplash can cause spinal cord damage and may not appear for weeks after your accident.
- Head injuries: Because a pothole causes your vehicle to dip suddenly, your head could smash into a hard object, like the window or steering wheel. This rapid head movement can cause concussions and other traumatic brain injuries that could require months or years of medical care.
- Tailbone injuries: When your vehicle hits a pothole, it frequently bounces hard and fast. Even if you are wearing a seat belt, this motion can cause your body to bounce up and down in your seat. The force at which you slam back down into your seat can cause more than just bruising, often leading to a tailbone fracture.
- Neck and back injuries: Whenever your vehicle makes a sudden and unexpected movement, like hitting a pothole, you risk injury to your body. As you tense up, your neck and back can become stiff, making it more likely that nerve or bone damage will occur. Many times, neck and back injuries take days or weeks to show symptoms.
- Wheel damage: The force of hitting a pothole may cause damage to your vehicle’s wheels. When your wheels dip into the pothole, you are usually not moving very slowly, so the impact itself can cause your wheels to blow out. If the pothole is large, it may have jagged pieces of concrete or asphalt sticking out, which can also cause a puncture in your tire.
- Suspension damage: The force of hitting a pothole can cause the suspension in your car to suffer serious damage. In the worst cases, it can even make your vehicle nearly impossible to steer or control. Not only is suspension damage often extremely expensive to repair, but it also takes weeks, leaving you without a means of transportation during the time your car is in the shop.
- Bumper damage: As your car hits the pothole, your bumper could actually come into contact with the pavement. Especially for deep potholes, this could cause your bumper and other parts near the bottom of your vehicle to skid across the concrete or asphalt, causing dents and potentially causing serious damage underneath your car.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Can Help You Recover After a Serious Pothole Accident
Potholes can be more than a mere nuisance and annoyance while you are driving. They often cause serious damage to your vehicle and can cause serious injuries. The sudden jolt of hitting a pothole can shake your body and result in long-term injuries. In Virginia, lawsuits and claims against the government are limited. To find out your legal options after a pothole accident, speak with one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we protect the rights of injured drivers. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we proudly serve clients in Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.