Ohio roadways undergo a lot of wear and tear that can cause significant potholes. Some potholes might be shallow and relatively harmless. Others might be huge and cause damage to your car. Potholes can wreck your car’s tires, suspension, and steering. Potholes could also cause drivers to lose control of their vehicle, leading to a car accident and injuries.
Ohio has long winters and gets a lot of snow and rainfall. The water from rain and melting snow work into small cracks in the roadway. When the air temperature drops below freezing, that water can turn into ice. Ice expands, and small amounts of water will develop inside cracks in asphalt and concrete. The continuous freeze and thaw cycles eventually cause potholes to form.
When heavy trucks and other vehicles pass over a weakened roadway, potholes appear quickly. The road also can suffer damage from changing ground conditions. Sandy soil, water erosion, and other conditions could cause a depression that becomes a pothole. Roadways require frequent maintenance. No matter how potholes form, they could cause serious car accidents.
How Can I Avoid a Pothole Accident?
The best way to avoid damage is to not drive fast over the pothole. You should slow down and move around the pothole, but heavy traffic might make that impossible.
Unless you are driving at a relatively slow speed, you likely only have a couple of seconds to identify a pothole. When one appears, you might be able to steer around it safely. If the pothole contains leaves, muddy water, sand, or debris, you cannot determine how deep it is. You also would not be able to see if it had any hidden dangers lurking within the pothole. If you must drive over a pothole, it helps to slow down. The faster you go, the harder your vehicle will strike the pothole.
After you pass over a pothole, you should inspect the wheels and underside of your vehicle. You could file an incident report with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
Can Pothole Accidents Cause Severe Injuries?
Most people associate car damage with pothole accidents. While that is true, injuries can also occur when you hit a significant pothole. The sudden shake that your car hits can cause your body to jolt up and down suddenly. The dramatic shift could put considerable pressure on your joints.
There is the potential for your head to hit the roof of your car at a significant thrust, leading to a concussion. The injuries that can result from a pothole include broken bones, internal tissue hemorrhages, whiplash, neck and spinal cord trauma, and more.
Injuries can occur as an indirect result of a pothole as well. Hitting a pothole could cause you to lose control of your vehicle. You could then collide with another car or a stationary object and sustain injuries from that crash. You could also be hit by another car that lost control after hitting a pothole and sustain injuries. Injuries can range from minor cuts and bruises to more substantial ones, such as traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, and internal bleeding.
What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Pothole Accident?
You may not expect to sustain an injury after driving over a pothole. You might not even realize that you suffered an injury. Whether you believe you did or not, there are a few steps that you should take to protect yourself:
- Request medical help: Even if you do not think you sustained any injuries in your accident, it is always good to have yourself evaluated by a doctor. They will be able to diagnose you properly. Many injuries do not manifest themselves immediately, and a doctor will be able to catch injuries early on. If you fail to see a doctor promptly and an injury appears, it may be harder to prove that it came about due to your accident.
- Take pictures: Be sure to record any evidence, including the pothole. Be sure to get multiple angles of the pothole as well as any pictures of your injury. If you experienced any property damage because of the pothole, take pictures of that as well, including damage to the vehicle you were driving.
- Take notes: Write down all the events that took place with you prior to and after your accident. Do not wait. Write it down while it is still fresh in your mind.
- Keep a log: Keep track of all the expenses that you sustained due to your accident, including repairs to your vehicle and any medical bills you have had to pay. In addition, keep track of the number of days your doctor orders you to remain home from work.
You should also speak with a lawyer who can help you determine whether there is a negligent party involved. They can provide you with your legal options moving forward.
Liability for Damages Caused by Potholes
Ohio acknowledges the importance of maintaining good, safe roadways. If a pothole causes damage to your vehicle or you are injured in an accident, you may be able to file a claim for damages. Note that it is difficult to bring a claim against a government agency, so it is critical to have a lawyer if you have sustained significant injuries.
The ODOT maintains all state roads. The responsibility includes all interstates, freeways, and state highways located outside municipalities. A pothole might damage your vehicle or cause an accident. If so, you can file an incident report with the ODOT.
The report should include the time and location of the incident, including the county in which it happened. You also should provide detailed information on the incident and the damages you sustained. The ODOT will forward the report to the relevant unit maintaining the roadway.
Filing the incident report is the first step toward filing a claim for damages. The ODOT should contact you within two business days to tell you which entity you need to file a claim with. When a claim is within ODOT’s maintenance jurisdiction, the Ohio Court of Claims (OCC) processes it. The claim might be in a municipality or another government unit in charge of maintaining the road.
A county, city, township, or similar local unit might be responsible for the roadway you encountered the damaging pothole. The ODOT says you should contact that local unit in such cases to determine how it might handle your claim.
How to File a Claim for Damages With the OCC?
Whenever a pothole causes an accident, you should file an ODOT incident report as soon as possible. That will help establish a firm connection between the incident and the damage. You should include that you obtained medical treatment in the incident report because of the accident.
The OCC hears cases for property damage and injuries when the state is the defendant. When the ODOT affirms it is the responsible entity for the road you encountered the pothole, you can file a claim with the OCC.
If your claim is less than $10,000, the OCC suggests you represent yourself. For claims that exceed $10,000, the OCC recommends that you obtain the services of an experienced lawyer.
The OCC only handles claims arising from damages on state-controlled roadways. However, you could suffer injuries or car damage caused by a pothole on the road in another area. You would have to file a claim in a state court in such cases.
An experienced lawyer can help you determine which court is appropriate. A lawyer can help you build the best case possible.
Cincinnati Car Accident Lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office Can Help Hold Liable Parties Accountable for Severe Pothole Accidents
If you have been severely injured in a pothole car accident, one of our experienced Cincinnati car accident lawyers at the Wolterman Law Office can help. Call us at 513-488-1135 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Loveland, Ohio, we represent clients throughout Hamilton County, Fairfield, Norwood, and Forest Park.