A bump in the road may sound like a relatively innocuous hazard, but in reality a bumpy road has the potential to cause a life-altering accident for anyone unfortunate enough to experience such an event. When a damaged or unsafe roadway causes a car accident, the first thing an injured victim needs to determine is which party is responsible for the road. Local roads and residential streets typically fall under the jurisdiction of the local government while state routes fall under the jurisdiction of the state government. Interstate highways are the federal government’s responsibility, and the states use federal tax dollars to maintain interstate roads.
Act Quickly After a Bump Accident
The party that owns and controls the road where a bump accident happens determines the victim’s legal options. In any case, taking legal action against any government entity is very different than pursuing a civil action against another private individual. An injured driver should start the claims process as soon as possible to meet the statute of limitations that will likely apply to such a claim.
The statute of limitations for personal injury claims against private individuals or companies can be two years or more in some states, but the time limit for filing a lawsuit against a government agency or office may be as little as 60 days. The legal process for any type of civil claim is time-consuming, so time is absolutely a critical factor.
Proving Negligence and Succeeding With a Bump Accident Claim
Once you identify the party responsible for the maintenance of the road where your accident happened, you must then prove the responsible party was negligent. This means providing evidence that the government entity knew or reasonably should have known about the bump hazard and either failed to correct the problem or did not address a known problem in a reasonable time to prevent more accidents. The plaintiff must also provide proof of the extent of his or her resulting losses and convincing evidence that shows the accident would not have occurred if not for the defendant’s negligence.
One of the most difficult aspects of navigating a legal claim against a government entity is the concept of “sovereign immunity,” or government agencies’ general immunity from civil liability lawsuits. If the government can prove that they were not negligent in the maintenance of the road or adhered to all required safety standards, the plaintiff may not be able to recover damages.
In a lawsuit against a government agency with sovereign immunity, the plaintiff will need to prove gross negligence. For example, a government agency may argue they followed all required safety regulations for a particular stretch of road, but the evidence shows the agency knew about several previous accidents in the same location and did nothing to investigate the issue or attempt to fix it. In such a case, the judge may find that the agency in question should have acknowledged the issue due to the several past accidents and was therefore grossly negligent by failing to address the problem.
Civil Claims Against Private Defendants
If you sustain injuries from a bump in the road on a privately-owned street or roadway, your injury claim would be a premises liability lawsuit against the property owner. For example, imagine a private business owns a property with a parking lot; therefore, the parking lot must meet all applicable government regulations but it is still technically private property. If the property owner modifies the lot in violation of required regulations or fails to properly maintain the lot and allows a hazard to persist, the owner will likely absorb liability for any resulting accidents. A lawsuit against a private individual or business would simply follow the typical personal injury claim format.