Los Angeles Motorcycle Pothole Injury Attorneys
A portion of the taxes that Los Angeles residents pay is collected to cover the cost of road maintenance. Maintaining the roads and streets helps to protect the safety of people who travel on them. Unfortunately, however, the city frequently fails to repair potholes on the roads and streets that crisscross Los Angeles. When potholes are left unrepaired, they can cause serious motorcycle accidents and injuries. Motorcyclists who are injured in accidents because of potholes might feel that they do not have any source of recovery for their losses. However, in some situations, an injured motorcyclist might have grounds to file a claim against the city to pursue compensation following a motorcycle pothole accident in Los Angeles. Here is what you need to know about the city's responsibilities for road maintenance, the laws that apply to pothole accidents, and what to do if you are seriously injured in a motorcycle accident because of an unrepaired pothole.Dangers of Potholes
The City of Los Angeles must regularly inspect the streets and repair potholes that it discovers, but it sometimes doesn't perform inspections and repairs as frequently as it should. Motor vehicle drivers might find potholes annoying, and a car hitting a pothole might result in minor property damage but no injuries. By contrast, when a motorcycle hits a pothole, it can cause a serious accident that might result in catastrophic injuries or death. While a motorcyclist might be able to avoid striking potholes in some cases, they can be difficult to spot in others until it is too late. Riding a motorcycle during the early morning or evening hours might make it nearly impossible to spot potholes and avoid them. With a larger pothole, a motorcycle tire can get trapped, causing the cyclist to be thrown from the bike and sustain severe injuries.California Premises Liability Law and the City's Responsibilities
A public entity such as the City of Los Angeles, may be liable for the negligence of city employees to maintain the streets in a proper condition. Under California's premises liability law, all property owners have a legal duty of care to maintain their properties in a reasonably safe condition to prevent those who are present from suffering foreseeable injuries caused by hazards. Like private property owners, governmental bodies that own public property also have this legal responsibility. A part of fulfilling the legal duty of care includes the responsibility of conducting regular inspections to identify and correct dangerous conditions, including potholes.
The legal standard that applies to property owners is the one that was established by Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108 (1968). Decided by the California Supreme Court, this case eliminated the common law's distinction of the duty owed by property owners based on the visitor's status. Following this case, all property owners in California have a duty to keep their property reasonably safe regardless of why the visitors are present. In situations in which a pothole has existed for a long enough time that the city either knew about it or reasonably should have known about it but failed to fix the pothole or to warn motorists about its presence, an injured motorcyclist might have a viable claim against the city.
In addition, public entities like the City of L.A. are liable for “dangerous conditions of public property.” California Government Code 835. In order to prove this, one must show a similar type analysis with the following elements:
- That City of Los Angeles owned or controlled the property;
- That the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury;
- That the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury that occurred;
- That a negligent act of an employee of City of Los Angeles created the dangerous condition.
- That City of Los Angeles had notice of the dangerous condition for a long enough time to have protected against it;
- That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and 6. That the dangerous condition was a substantial factor in causing the harm.
The injured victim of a motorcycle accident caused by a pothole will be the plaintiff in a claim against the city. The plaintiff will have the burden of proving all of the following legal elements of their claim by a preponderance of the evidence:
- Location of the property
- How likely another person would enter the property in a similar way as the victim
- The potential harm's serious nature that results from the dangerous condition
- Whether the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition
- The difficulty for the owner to protect visitors from potential harm
- The property owner's degree of control over the dangerous condition
The plaintiff must present evidence proving each of the elements to prevail. If the plaintiff can't present sufficient evidence to prove one of the elements, they will not win their claim even if they prove the remaining elements.
One element with which some plaintiffs might have difficulty proving is the city's knowledge or the fact that the city should have known about the existence of a pothole. Potholes can suddenly arise, and Los Angeles is a large city with hundreds of miles of streets and roads. However, gathering certain types of evidence can help with proving this element. Some examples of evidence that might be helpful include the following:
- Complaints about the pothole that were previously filed by others
- Evidence about how long the pothole existed in the location from witnesses, videos, and others
- Road inspection logs
- Road maintenance logs and schedules
If the plaintiff can show evidence that the pothole existed for such a long time that the city should have reasonably discovered and repaired it, that might be enough to prove this element.Lawsuits Against the City
If you were injured by a pothole on a public street, you have the right to file a claim against the city based on the dangerous condition located on public property. You will have to first file a tort claim with the municipality where the accident occurred within six months. This claim is not a lawsuit, but it preserves your right to later file a civil complaint in court. You will have two years from the date of your accident to file a lawsuit under California's statute of limitations.
The six-month requirement is because of the California Tort Claims Act, which mandates notice to the responsible governmental agency of your claim. While the city might accept your claim, in most cases, it will deny tort claims without explaining why. When the city denies your claim, you will then have the right to pursue a lawsuit against the city in court within two years of your accident.
Government agencies and cities vigorously defend against lawsuits, so it will be important to work with an experienced injury lawyer. Your attorney will file a lawsuit for you, investigate your case, gather evidence, and conduct discovery.
You will need to ask for documentation of previous repairs, inspections, and complaints about the area where your motorcycle accident occurred. You will need to prove the following things to win your lawsuit against the city or government agency:
- The defendant city or government agency owned the property on which the road and pothole were located.
- There was a dangerous condition on the road where your accident occurred.
- The existence of the pothole created a risk of foreseeable injury of the type you suffered.
- The government had either actual or constructive notice of the condition's existence for a long enough time that it should have been repaired, or an employee of the city or agency caused the dangerous condition.
- The dangerous condition caused your accident and injuries.
- You suffered calculable damages as a result.
If you are injured after striking a pothole on your motorcycle, you should seek prompt medical attention. Call 911 and ask for an ambulance and the police. Take pictures of the pothole with your phone if you can. To provide a perspective of the pothole's size and depth, use an object for reference in the photos. When the police arrive, tell them what happened. The officer should write an accident report. Ask the officer how to get a copy of the report, and make sure you follow through and get it after you have received medical care.
If your injuries prevent you from taking photographs, ask for someone else to take pictures for you as soon as possible. Photographs are critical because the city typically fills potholes as soon as it learns about an accident, making it difficult to determine the dimensions and depth of the hole afterward.
When you see your doctor, inform them that your injuries were caused by hitting a pothole and being thrown from your motorcycle. This helps your healthcare providers understand how your fall occurred so that they can evaluate your injuries. It also helps to show that your injuries were caused by your pothole motorcycle accident instead of something else.Get Help From an Experienced Los Angeles Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
If you were seriously injured in a motorcycle accident because of a pothole located on a public or private road in Los Angeles, you need to talk to an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. If the property is public, you have a limited time to file a tort claim with the responsible government agency or municipality. Speaking with an experienced motorcycle accident attorney can help to preserve your rights and allow you to understand your legal options and potential remedies. Call the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC today to request a free consultation.