This winter has been especially hard on Michigan roads. The weather patterns have resulted in massive potholes across the state, and in local neighborhoods. When Michigan potholes cause serious injury, can the government be held responsible, or do you just have to rely on your own health or auto insurance?
2018 Is “Worse Year Than Usual” For Potholes
The mix of snowy weather and a few warm days has created a recipe for potholes in Michigan’s aging roads. According to Washtenaw County Road Commission spokesperson Emily Kizer, the wild swings in temperature, and all the moisture on the roads, are adding up to a worse-than-usual pothole season across the region. When temperatures move rapidly across the freezing threshold, snowmelt refreezes and expands, putting strain on the roads.
Michigan Radio reports that in the first 6 weeks of 2018, more than 500 people have contacted the Michigan Department of Transportation’s hotline to report problems on the roads. An MDOT spokesperson says that road crews are patching over 3,000 potholes every day in Wayne County alone. According to the Detroit Free Press, only 19% of road pavement in southeastern Michigan is in good condition. 40% of roads were considered fair, and another 41% were considered poor.
Pothole Problems And Personal Injury Concerns
For most Metro Detroit drivers, all those potholes can be inconvenient and expensive. They can cause damage to tires, rims, and suspension on vehicles that hit them. In some cases, pothole damage can result in unpredictable traffic patterns or cascade collisions that result in serious auto accidents. For cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians, Michigan potholes can cause serious personal injury as well from falls and motor-vehicle related accidents.
Can The Government Be Held Responsible For Pothole Injuries?
A person injured by a pothole may need to seek damages from the government for anything from time off work to pain and suffering. To do so, an injured plaintiff and his or her attorney will need to comply with the Government Tort Liability Act (GTLA), MCL 691.1401 et seq. This law generally prevents a citizen from suing the government for acting within its official functions. However, there is an exception when it comes to maintaining the roads:
“Each governmental agency having jurisdiction over a highway shall maintain the highway in reasonable repair so that it is reasonably safe and convenient for public trave.”
If it doesn’t, anyone who suffers bodily injury or property damage can recover for its negligence. However, it will be up to the plaintiff to show that the government agency had notice of the pothole and failed to address the defect within a reasonable period of time.
Notice Requirements Put Deadlines On Pothole Claims
Before an injured person can sue the government under the highway exception, he or she (or her personal injury attorney) must send written notice to the government agency responsible for that section of the road. A recent Michigan Court of Appeals decision, Russell v City of Detroit, Docket No 332934 (Oct. 10, 2017) made clear that the notice must:
- Be served within 120 days of the injury (or 180 days for minors and incapacitated adults)
- Identify the person injured
- Explains the injuries sustained
- Specifies the exact location of the pothole or other roadway defect
- Describes the nature of the defect
- Provides the names of any witnesses known at the time of the notice
If the injured person misses the 120-day deadline, he or she cannot collect any damages for the injury. Russell explains that the exact location and nature of the defect must be taken from the notice as a whole, rather than relying on particular labels.
When a pothole causes a slip-and-fall or auto accident, it can result in serious personal injury. The government can be held responsible for the road conditions, but only if you and your attorneys act quickly to preserve your rights.
The Cronin Law Firm has experienced attorneys to aid with whatever legal issue you’re facing. If you have been injured in a personal injury or auto accident, contact The Cronin Law Firm today to schedule a consultation.