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Poorly Maintained Roads Caused My Bicycle Accident. Who Is Liable?

May 17th, 2023

May is National Bike Month—a time to celebrate the benefits of bicycling and encourage more people to do it. That said, as cycling continues to grow in popularity—both as recreation and as a form of transportation—there is a greater need than ever to ensure that our roads and bike lanes are safe and adequately maintained. Unfortunately, poorly maintained roads account for about 13 percent of bicycle injury accidents. While bicycles can’t travel as fast as motorized vehicles, the risk of injury is still very present. This is the case especially if roads aren’t properly maintained. At best, a bicycle’s center of gravity is tentative. Potholes, cracks, and debris in the road can quickly cause a cyclist to lose control, fall, and possibly sustain serious injuries.

The big question is, if a poorly maintained road or bike lane causes the accident–who is liable? Can you claim compensation for your injuries in these cases? Let’s explore this issue a bit further.

The Party Responsible for Road Maintenance May Be Liable

In most cases, municipalities and other local governments are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of roads. This means that if a poorly maintained road causes an accident, the local government can be liable for any resulting injuries or damages if the dangerous condition was caused by negligence. In some cases, however, the local government outsources maintenance to private contractors. If the contractor was negligent in maintaining the road, the contractor may sometimes be held liable rather than the government.

To hold a government agency or contractor liable for a bicycle accident caused by poorly maintained roads, you must show that the agency was negligent in its duty to maintain the road. This requires demonstrating four things:

  • The agency/contractor owed a duty to maintain the road in a reasonably safe condition;
  • The agency/contractor breached this duty by failing to maintain the road adequately;
  • The poor road condition directly caused your accident and injuries; and
  • You suffered damages from the accident, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

Complications When Suing the Government

Filing a personal injury claim against a government agency typically doesn’t work the same as suing a private party. Governments generally claim the legal doctrine of “sovereign immunity,” meaning you can’t sue a government without its consent. However, most local and state municipalities (including those responsible for road conditions) waive this right by setting up a system where citizens may file claims against the government. You must begin by filing a “Notice of Claim” within a short amount of time after the accident. If you fail to do so, you forfeit your right to any compensation for your injuries.

Due to the complexities involved in determining liability and filing claims, if you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident caused by poor road conditions, the best way to get compensated is to hire a personal injury attorney to help you. Our law firm has extensive experience with cases like these, and our attorneys can help determine who is liable and how to hold them responsible for compensating you. Call our offices for more information.