Who is Liable for an Accident Caused by Damaged Roads in Massachusetts?

Potholes, cracked road surfaces, and broken fixtures can all cause accidents.  In Massachusetts, these kinds of hazards can either damage your car and cause you to crash or cause someone else to crash into you.  When one of these accidents happens, it’s important to know who is responsible.

If a defective road caused an accident, you may be able to file a claim against the Commonwealth for any injuries you faced – but not property damage.  Construction companies can also be sued if they are responsible for the road damage and unreasonable dangers.  Under other circumstances, you may be able to sue other drivers or individuals for the accident.

For help with your case, call the car accident injury lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan.  Our phone number is (617) 925-6407.

Suing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for Accidents Caused by Road Damage

If a road qualifies as “defective,” you may be able to file a claim with the Commonwealth for damages.  There are certain restrictions and policies related to these claims, so it is important to always work with an experienced Boston car accident attorney when pursuing one of these claims.

Qualifying Claims

For this kind of damaged road claim to proceed against the Commonwealth, the road damage must qualify as a “defect.”  This restriction comes under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 81, § 18, and case law can help dictate what qualifies as a “defect.”  Generally speaking, this kind of claim usually deals with potholes and cracks in the road that cause a crash.

For this kind of claim to be valid, the local town, city, or other government entity needs to have known about the defect – or you can at least show that they should have reasonably known about the defect.  These restrictions come from Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 84, § 15, which are referenced in Ch. 81, § 18 (discussed above).

Limits on Damages

The damages paid in one of these claims are capped at $4,000 max.  Those damages are paid only for injuries, and you cannot get damages for property damage or vehicle damage.  In many cases, your insurance might also help cover damages through your PIP coverage and other first-party benefits you might have.

Under Ch. 81, § 18, damages can actually be capped lower than $4,000.  This statute has a second limit at 0.20% of the value of the town where the accident happened.  that means that if the town where your injury happened was worth less than $2 million, that could lower the damage cap – but that is not likely to affect most cases.

Other Rules

There are other limitations on how long you have to give notice of the lawsuit and how that notice must be given.  Additional notice is usually required for cases filed against government entities, even though an injury victim typically has 3 years to otherwise sue for injury under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 260, § 2A.

Suing a Construction Company for an Accident Caused by Damaged Roads in Massachusetts

If you can see construction on the roadway, it’s possible that there could be active roadwork happening.  If the roadway is closed, then you should not drive on the road, and you might not be able to sue anyone for injuries sustained on a closed roadway.  However, if the construction company allows you to drive on that roadway, the road needs to be safe enough for you to do so.  Anything short of reasonable safety can make the construction firm responsible for your injuries.

Many active construction sites on roadways are covered with steel plates or sectioned off with cones and other barriers.  If the construction company took negligent steps to keep the roadway safe, you may be entitled to file a claim against the construction firm.

You will need to prove that the construction company was negligent in order to get these damages, but the limitations might not be the same as they would against the government.  If you cannot tell whether there is an active construction zone or not, you may be able to file your claim with the Commonwealth, and they can forward it to any responsible construction companies if there was an active work zone you did not know about.

Suing Other People for Damaged and Dangerous Roadway Accidents in Massachusetts

Some roads are damaged, but not to a degree that safe driving should really cause an accident on that road.  However, when other drivers combine these imperfect roads with speeding or drunk driving, you could be injured as collateral damage.  Furthermore, if some individual or another driver causes damage to the road, and that damage causes you to crash, that individual could be liable for your injuries.

Dangerous Drivers on Damaged Roads

Many potholes and other damaged spots on roads are avoidable, and it is only through speeding, drunk driving, or other dangerous driving that these roads cause accidents.  If another driver was making unreasonable moves behind the wheel given the condition of the roadway, they could be liable for any accidents they cause while doing so.  In these cases, it really isn’t the roadway that causes the accident, but rather the other driver’s unreasonable actions.  Talk to a Wakefield car accident attorney about your ability to hold another driver liable.

Drivers Causing Road Damage

A broken trailer dragging along the ground or a driver crashing their car in front of you could damage the roadway.  If another driver’s negligence caused that damage, and that damage caused you to crash, you could be entitled to sue that driver.  Your accident and injuries are a foreseeable result of their negligence, so they should be held liable for these injuries.  However, no-fault insurance rules might modify how and when you can sue them.

Other People Causing Road Damage

If someone was doing something unreasonably dangerous like dumping debris onto the street or damaging the road with power tools or unauthorized construction, they can be held liable for injuries that road damage causes.  This could allow you to sue them for the accident if their damage to the road is the root cause of the crash.

Call Our Massachusetts Car Accident Attorneys Today

For help with a car accident case caused by damaged or dangerous roads, call our Cambridge car accident attorneys today.  at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan, we offer free case evaluations.  Call us at (617) 925-6407.