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Can You Sue for an Accident Caused by a Pothole?


Car accidents aren’t always caused by another driver’s negligence — other factors, such as hazardous road conditions, can sometimes cause them. Critically, potholes are a common issue throughout the New York City area that cause vehicle damage, and the force of impact can also result in severe injuries to drivers and their passengers. If you were injured in a pothole accident, you may be entitled to bring a lawsuit under certain circumstances.     

What is a Pothole?

A pothole is a depression in the road that often forms due to certain weather conditions. They are typically caused by water that accumulates in small pockets on the road, which does not evaporate but goes through a cycle of continuous freezing and thawing. The process of the water freezing and contracting, then warming and expanding, causes a pothole to deepen. Extreme heat, poor maintenance, and wear and tear on the road due to traffic can also result in the formation of potholes.    

Injuries Caused by Potholes

A person can sustain a serious injury as a result of striking a pothole or swerving to avoid one. When a driver hits a pothole, it can cause their body or a passenger’s body to be jolted or thrown in the vehicle. Due to the force of impact, they may strike the dashboard, steering wheel, or other part of the vehicle. If the pothole causes a driver to lose control of the vehicle, additional injuries may be sustained in a collision.

A pothole accident can result in a number of injuries, including:

  • Soft tissue injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Internal bleeding
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Concussion
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis

Pothole accident injuries often require extensive medical treatment, including doctor visits, physical rehabilitation, and surgical intervention. Victims may also lose time from work as they recover, incur substantial out-of-pocket expenses, and suffer significant physical pain and emotional anguish. Those who have sustained what New York Insurance Law defines as a “serious injury” may be entitled to compensation beyond no-fault benefits for a pothole accident by filing a personal injury action to recover their economic and non-economic damages.  

Pothole Laws in New York

While municipalities are typically responsible for maintaining the roads within their jurisdiction in a safe condition, the law can be complex when it comes to liability for pothole accidents. In order to hold New York City accountable in a personal injury action for pothole accident injuries, the City must have received prior written notice within 15 days before the accident occurred — and not have made repairs within that time. Or, the City must have issued a written acknowledgment of the defect and failed to remedy the issue within the 15-day period. If the City argues it did not have notice, a victim must either present evidence that it did have notice or establish that the City was responsible for creating the hazard in order to avoid dismissal of their claim.

In addition, New York State has its own law that applies to pothole accidents on state highways and streets. Under this statute, the state can only be held liable for injuries caused by a pothole if the accident happens between May 1 and November 15. Cases against New York State involving potholes are heard in the New York Court of Claims. This is an administrative court that handles claims made against the State of New York, and there is no right to a jury trial.    

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney

If you sustained an injury in a pothole accident, it’s crucial to pursue compensation for the economic and non-economic damages you suffered. An experienced personal injury attorney can fight for the monetary recovery to which you are entitled and work to hold the negligent party accountable. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has represented victims of pothole accidents for over three decades and strives to obtain the best possible results in each of their unique cases.

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. Contact us today for a consultation.