Residents of Los Angeles pay taxes to adequately cover the cost of maintaining roads and streets to ensure safe travel. Despite this, the city frequently neglects to repair potholes on its roads and streets, posing a significant risk of motorcycle accidents and injuries. Injured motorcyclists may believe that they have no recourse to recover their losses. However, in certain circumstances, they may be eligible to file a claim against the city and seek compensation for a motorcycle pothole accident in Los Angeles. It is essential to understand the city's responsibility for upholding road maintenance, applicable laws for pothole accidents, and steps to take if you sustain severe injuries in a motorcycle accident due to an unfixed pothole.
The Many Hazards Posed by Potholes
The City of Los Angeles is obligated to conduct regular street inspections and repair potholes promptly. However, the city does not always fulfill this duty, which can be a nuisance for drivers of motor vehicles. Although hitting a pothole in a car may only result in minor property damage, it can have more serious consequences for motorcyclists. Striking a pothole on a motorcycle can lead to catastrophic injuries or even death. While some potholes may be avoidable, others can be difficult to detect until it's too late, especially during low-light hours. A deep pothole can trap a motorcycle's tire, causing the rider to lose control and sustain severe injuries.
The Responsibilities of the City and the Premises Liability Law in California:
Under California's premises liability law, public entities such as the City of Los Angeles may be held responsible for the negligence of their employees in maintaining the streets in a safe condition. Like private property owners, governmental bodies that own public property have a legal duty to maintain their properties in a reasonably safe condition to prevent foreseeable injuries caused by hazards. This duty includes the responsibility to conduct regular inspections to identify and correct dangerous conditions, including potholes.
The legal standard that applies to property owners was established by the California Supreme Court in Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968), which eliminated the common law's distinction of the duty owed by property owners based on the visitor's status. As a result, all property owners in California have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe, regardless of the purpose of the visitor's presence.
If a pothole has existed for a sufficient amount of time that the city knew or should have known about it but failed to fix it or warn motorists of its presence, an injured motorcyclist may have a valid legal claim against the city.
Under California Government Code 835, public entities such as the City of Los Angeles are legally responsible for "dangerous conditions of public property." To establish liability, the following elements must be shown:
Demonstrating Liability for a Motorcycle Accident Caused by a Pothole
When a motorcycle accident caused by a pothole occurs, the injured victim becomes the plaintiff in a legal claim against the city. To succeed in their claim, the plaintiff must prove all the necessary legal elements by a preponderance of observable evidence. These elements include: the location of the property, the likelihood of another person entering the property in a similar manner as the victim, the serious nature of the potential harm resulting from the dangerous condition, whether the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, the difficulty in protecting visitors from harm, and the property owner's level of control over the dangerous condition. Failing to provide sufficient or comprehensive evidence for any of these elements will likely result in the plaintiff losing their claim, even if they have proven the other elements.
Proving that the city knew or should have known about the existence of a unrepaired pothole can be a challenging element for some plaintiffs. Potholes can suddenly appear, and with Los Angeles being a large city with a vast network of streets and roads, it can be difficult to pinpoint when the pothole emerged. However, certain types of evidence can assist in demonstrating this element. Such evidence may include complaints filed by others about the pothole, witness accounts, videos, road inspection logs, and road maintenance schedules. If the plaintiff can establish that the pothole existed for a considerable period, to the point where the city should have reasonably discovered and repaired it, this may be sufficient to prove this element.
Legal Actions Pursued Against Cities and Municipalities
If you sustained injuries due to an unrepaired pothole on a public street, you possess the right to initiate a legal claim against the city for the hazardous condition on public property. To begin the process, you must first file a tort claim with the municipality where the accident took place within six months. This claim is not a lawsuit, but it serves as a means to preserve your right to file a civil complaint in court at a later date. Under California's statute of limitations, you have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit.
The six-month deadline is a result of the California Tort Claims Act, which necessitates informing the responsible governmental agency of your claim. While the city may accept your claim, it is more likely to reject it without explaining the grounds. If your claim is denied, you can then file a lawsuit against the city in court within two years of the accident.
Municipalities and government agencies typically mount a robust defense against lawsuits, making it crucial to engage an experienced personal injury attorney. Your lawyer will submit a lawsuit, investigate your case, gather evidence, and conduct discovery.
To prevail in your lawsuit against the city or government agency, you must request a compendium of various documentation of past repairs, inspections, and complaints relating to the site where your motorcycle accident took place. You will need to prove the following:
The Course of Action to Pursue Immediately Following a Motorcycle Accident Caused by a Pothole in Los Angeles
If you have been injured due to a pothole while riding your motorcycle, it is essential to seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 for an ambulance and the police. Take photos of the pothole using your phone and a nearby object to provide a sense of relative scale. If you are unable to take photos due to your injuries, ask someone else to do it for you on your behalf as soon as possible. Photos and documentation will be critical to building your legal case against the city.
When the police arrive, explain the circumstances and details of what transpired, and request an accident report. Ask the officer for instructions on obtaining a copy of the report. Make sure to obtain the report after receiving medical treatment.
Inform your healthcare provider that your injuries resulted from hitting a pothole while riding your motorcycle. This information will help them closely evaluate your injuries and link them to the accident. It will also show that your injuries were not caused by other factors external to the dangerous pothole.