The Bay Area boasts some of the bike friendliest bicycle cities in the county, and there are over 2,500 miles of bike lanes and paths in the region. But with these come potholes, and with potholes come accidents and injuries.
The Depth of the Problem
In a highly celebrated case, the city of Oakland paid $3.2 million to settle a pothole claim in 2014 after a 35-year-old woman claimed she hit a pothole on Mountain Boulevard near Ascot Drive. She said she flew over the handle bars and hit head-first onto the pavement. She suffered serious injuries to her head, face, teeth and jaw.
Her claim was that the city of Oakland failed to property maintain and repair the roads which caused a dangerous condition. This case was settled, so it’s unknown what would have happened if it went to a trial. But it turns out, this case in unusual as the vast number of claims regarding pothole accidents go unpaid because of the nature of a pothole claim.
Making a Claim
In California, citizens are barred from suing the city because of a doctrine called sovereign immunity that dates back to the days of England and the Crown rule. However, California passed a law that allows some suits under certain conditions, and damage from potholes is one of those allowed.
Under the law, there are only two ways a cyclist can make a claim for injuries from a pothole. They need to show that:
- The pothole caused the injury, and
- The maintenance of the pothole was under the control of the city, and
- That the city either:
- Negligently fixed the pothole, or
- Knew or should have known that it was there and posed a hazard and did nothing.
It works like this: if a pothole causes a cyclist to break their leg, they would make a claim against the city. They would need to prove that the city had tried to fix it, and their fix actually caused a dangerous condition.
The cyclist would need to prove that the city had been given notice of the pothole, and that it posed a hazard, and then didn’t fix it within a reasonable time.
Filing a Claim
The state of California has a program where pothole damage can be reported and claims submitted and after evaluation, they will consider paying for the damage. However this Caltrans (California Department of Transportation) program only pays out about 10 percent of their claims.
Each city also has a pothole claims program, and these would be used when that particular pothole was maintained by the city instead of the state. If the claim is denied by either the state or city pothole program, then the injured person can sue in court.
Types of Accidents/Injuries Cyclist Face in a Pothole Accident
In the majority of pothole bike accidents, the person is ejected from their bike from the sudden jolt that came from hitting the pothole. In other accidents, a person veers to avoid the pothole, or the pothole throws them into the traffic lane, and they are hit by a car.
In these cases, most of the injuries come from hitting the pavement, and this presents certain common injuries, which are:
- Facial damage
- Broken Jaws
- Head trauma
- Broken bones (Collarbone, legs and wrists are most common)
- Burns from airbags
- Deep bruises
- Road rash (Mostly for cyclist and motorcycle riders)
Contact Bay Area Bicycle Law
If you’ve been injured by a pothole or other bike lane conditions, you need to talk to an attorney at Bay Area Bicycle Law. Their attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help you file a pothole damage claim and get compensation for your injuries.
We are the only firm in North California that deals exclusively with bicycle law. A consultation is free, and if you decide to have us represent you, there are no fees paid until you get paid by the insurance company.
Start putting someone on your side, call us at (415) 466 8717 or click here to contact us online. If you still wonder if we’re the right firm for you or even if you need an attorney, read this this for help answering these questions.