Pothole injury and damage claims explained

Pothole injury

Potholes. They’re a seasonal nightmare for drivers on many of BC’s roads and rolling into one can result in potentially serious injuries. These pits and dips in road surfaces are particularly attracted to older roads due to freezing and thawing. Typically, they form when water seeps below the paving and freeze. The expanding ice pushes against pavement and can eventually form a hole on the roadway, creating a hazard for all kinds of road users. Without a lawyer, claiming for pothole damages or pothole injury resulting can be difficult.

Why potholes are an issue

For years, potholes have been a challenge for both motorists and city crews alike, as striking a pothole could result in severe damage or injury. The problem, however, may be getting worse. Just this past winter, the City of Surrey reported “a very sharp increase” in the number of potholes. Over a 44-day cold snap, crews repaired more than 2,100 potholes during the season – more than twice the number identified the previous year. As a result, the number of pothole injury and damage claims may be increasing.

During cold weather, city procedures to fix potholes may only offer temporary reprieve. Crews can use a petroleum-based filler as a stop-gap measure until more permanent repairs can be made. Some municipalities, such as Vancouver and Surrey, also have pothole reporting phone lines where motorists can alert officials of the road hazards. Surrey claims potholes will be repaired “within 24 hours” after being reported, while Vancouver states most potholes will be repaired within two days.

What to do about injury or damages caused by a pothole?

Filing an insurance claim may be a good start, although many cases are also heard in court. Some municipalities will state clearly that they are not liable to pay for damages. However, that’s not always true. While it is generally established in court that cities, as policy makers, are not liable to motorists who suffer damages or injuries due to potholes, damages can be awarded if a claimant is able to prove negligence in following pothole repair policies.

In a case brought before the BC Supreme Court, a motorcyclist injured after striking a pothole successfully claimed costs from a road maintenance corporation. The plaintiff brought multiple witnesses who testified that the pothole had been there for “two or more weeks” before the accident, even though the road was inspected “two or three times a week.” In the end, the court determined the injured motorist was entitled to approximately $21,000 in damages.

However, it is far more difficult to raise an argument that inspections ought to be more frequent. In one pothole dispute involving a North Vancouver cyclist thrown off his bike, the case went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The injured cyclist argued that North Vancouver should have instituted a more or less constant inspection for potholes.

Supreme Court of Canada disagreed, and had this to say:

The Municipality, a public authority, exercised its power to maintain Marine Drive. It was under no statutory duty to do so. Its method of exercising its power was a matter of policy to be determined by the Municipality itself. If, in the implementation of its policy its servants acted negligently, causing damage, liability could arise, but the Municipality cannot be held to be negligent because it formulated one policy of operation rather than another.”

You have options for claiming pothole injury or damages

If you’re unsure about proceeding on a claim involving severe damage and injury resulting from a pothole, it is always a good idea to consult an experienced lawyer who can advise you of your options. For your free consultation, call 604-370-3050.

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