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Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Hit a Pothole? PennDot Wants You to Report the Road Hazard

Philadelphia auto accident attorneyIf you’ve driven on Pennsylvania roads long enough, you’ve probably run over your share of potholes – those hubcap-rattling ruts in the pavement that have the potential to cause serious car accidents.

To address the problem, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is encouraging motorists to report any potholes so road crews can repair them as soon as possible, according to a news article in The Times Herald. If you know about a pothole, call 1-800-FIX-ROAD or visit www.penndot.gov to submit the information.

Drivers typically encounter potholes during the winter and especially spring months. Water enters the road through tiny cracks in the pavement. When the water freezes, it expands, which weakens the pavement. If the temperature then goes above freezing, the ice melts and leaves gaps under the surface of the pavement. Temperature fluctuations results in water freezing into ice and then thawing, which causes the pothole.

Can the state reimburse drivers whose cars are damaged?

Unfortunately, if you drive over a pothole on a state road and your car sustains damage, you or your insurance company is likely responsible for the cost of damage. State law protects its agencies such as PennDot and most municipalities from having to reimburse drivers unless the agencies were found to be totally negligent, according to triblive.com.

Drivers who experience damage to their cars can file claims, but the PennDot website includes a note about pothole damage. The Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management is bound by state law to deny claims seeking recovery for damage caused by “potholes, sinkholes, and/or conditions created by the natural elements.” The state is protected against having to pay under a clause in the sovereign immunity rule, according to the website.

If you or someone in your car sustains a personal injury, however, you may be entitled to compensation from the state.

But the state does not make the claims process easy. According to state law, the injured party must show that “the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred and that the Commonwealth agency had actual written notice of the dangerous condition of the highway a sufficient time prior to the event to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.” A scenario in which someone injured might be eligible for compensation from the Commonwealth might play out as follows: A driver hits a pothole and reports the road hazard to PennDot. The state agency records the location of the pothole but fails to take action to make repairs within a reasonable time, putting other drivers at risk.

If, after the state receives written notice, another driver then strikes the pothole and is injured in an accident, the Commonwealth may be liable for failing to take adequate measures to protect against the dangerous condition.There are also scenarios in which another motorist could be held responsible for a crash involving a pothole, such as a case in which another driver swerves or makes an unsafe maneuver and causes an accident.

Cases involving injuries that may be linked to a state agency’s negligence can be extremely complicated to prove. That’s why it’s wise to consult with an experienced attorney if you or a loved one was injured in an accident involving a road hazard such as a pothole. A knowledgeable attorney can fully investigate the accident to determine who was responsible.

For a free consultation, contact the attorneys at Villari, Brandes & Giannone, P.C. today.


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