Who is Liable for a Car Accident Caused by a Pothole in Nevada?

by Gina Corena

posted in Las Vegas Car Accident Attorney on January 18, 2023

Who is Liable for a Car Accident Caused by a Pothole in Nevada?

Potholes are formed when water weakens the soil structure underneath the road, and the impact of traffic gradually damages the asphalt surface. Over time, the asphalt is broken, creating a hole. Roads in areas with regular freezing and thawing are especially vulnerable to potholes. Poor drainage, thin pavement, and cracks that are not maintained in time are also common causes. 

These Las Vegas drivers stated  in a recent news item on KNTV that potholes are a serious problem in their area, and were encouraged to report them to local and state authorities. Not seeing a pothole in time may result in a jolt or a spilled cup of coffee from the car’s drink holder. However, potholes can cause serious damage to vehicles, injuries to drivers and passengers, and pose a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists.  If an accident is caused by a pothole, who is responsible for the damages? 

Why Are Potholes a Hazard and How Do They Cause Accidents? 

Driving over a pothole can cause damage to a vehicle, which in turn can make it dangerous to drive. It can cause a significant impact that the vehicle is not designed to absorb. According to the American Automobile Association, between 2011 and 2016, potholes caused vehicle damage for 16 million drivers, at an annual cost of $2 billion. 

 Below are some examples of vehicle components that can be affected by potholes:

  • Wheels and tires. The tire could puncture, or the wheel/rim could bend or crack. Either can cause the driver to lose control and cause an accident.
  • Suspension systems.. The impact can bend or break parts of the suspension system, and cause damage to struts and shocks.
  • Alignment. The vehicle’s alignment could be damaged, causing it to pull to one side.
  • Exhaust. Every driver dreads the sound of their car “bottoming out.” If a pothole is deep enough, the asphalt could hit the exhaust system, which can damage the engine. 

Potholes also pose a hazard to the occupants of the vehicle. The impact of driving through a pothole causes a sudden jolt that can result in whiplash, concussion, spinal cord damage, contusions, or broken bones. If the driver loses control of the vehicle and causes a collision with the curb or another driver, then the resulting injuries can be far worse. 

Potholes put pedestrians and cyclists at risk. A pedestrian or cyclist who does not see a pothole in time could fall, causing injury or even putting them in the path of an oncoming vehicle. 

Who is Responsible for Potholes on Roads? 

Building public roads and maintaining them in a safe condition is the responsibility of the government. A road may be under the jurisdiction of the city, county or state. The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) builds and maintains the following categories of roads:

  • Interstates, such as I-11, which connects Nevada with Arizona, and I-80, traveling through California and Utah. Interstates are recognizable by the red and blue shield with white text and the label “Interstate” at the top. 
  • Highways. Nevada highways include US 6 – the “loneliest road” that travels through Nevada’s wide open and mainly unpopulated desert between Montgomery Pass and Great Basin National Park,and US 93, which travels 515 miles along Nevada’s eastern border. Nevada highway signs are on a white shield with black writing. 
  • State routes, which mainly serve Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. State route signage features an image of the state of Nevada in white on a black background, with the number of the state route in the middle. 

Other roads are the responsibility of an  individual county. For example, Clark County Department of Public Works builds, inspects, and maintains roads and bridges, as well as flood control. City governments also provide services for roads within their city limits. In Las Vegas, the Public Works Department oversees transportation system engineering and construction management, as well as services such as street sweeping. 

What Should I Do if I Have a Car Accident Caused by a Pothole in Nevada? 

Car Accident Law

Just as with any other type of car accident, it is important to seek medical attention for any driver, passenger, or pedestrian with an injury. If possible, the victim should collect evidence to support their claim for damages, such as photos of the pothole and the surrounding accident scene, and of the damage to vehicles involved. Talking to witnesses and gathering their contact information can also support the claim. A mechanic can also inspect the vehicle to confirm the damage was caused by driving through a pothole. In order for a state, county or city authority to be legally held responsible for causing an accident due to a pothole, there must be sufficient evidence it was the pothole, and not some other factor, that caused the accident. 

There are also requirements in Nevada to report vehicle accidents within a set timeframe. If there are serious injuries or property damage the police should be called to the scene. If police do not come to the accident scene, the parties involved are required to file a report at the local police station within 24 hours if there are any injuries and/or more than $750 of property damage. It is also required by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles to report the accident within 10 days if there are no injuries and property damage is under $750.   

When an accident is caused by a pothole, the victim could be eligible for compensation from the authority responsible for maintaining the road. However, it may not always be clear who that authority is. Some road authorities will be more obvious, especially when driving on a major highway. However, sometimes who is responsible for a section of road is unclear, or more than one Nevada government department will be involved with maintaining a single road. Working with a lawyer with local expertise will help identify the correct authority who is responsible for maintaining the road to a safe standard. 

If you are injured in an accident because of a pothole, our team can help claim compensation for medical costs, lost income, property damage and pain and suffering. Contact us or call call 702-680-1111 today for a free consultation. 

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