Automobile collisions often arise from the negligence of one or more drivers. What happens, though, when a defect in the roadway causes or contributes to an accident? Maine has laws specifically addressing liability when such defects result in bodily injury or property damage. The car crash lawyers at Briggs and Wholey have nearly 30 years of combined experience representing Maine accident victims. We have a thorough understanding of the laws and procedures in this area.Highway or Road Defects
Highways have a number of flaws, including potholes, defective culverts, or fixed objects obstructing the path of motorists. According to the Maine Department of Transportation, road defects increase in March and April due to weather conditions.
If a person is injured as the result of a dangerous condition on the highway, he or she may have a claim against the entity responsible for maintaining the road. Since the responsibility for maintaining public roadways falls on governmental entities that generally have sovereign immunity, recovery is only available as specifically set forth in the relevant Maine law.The State “Pothole Law”
Roads must be kept in proper condition so that they are safe and convenient for drivers. In Maine, a person who suffers bodily injury or property damage caused by a defect, want of repair, or insufficient railing “in any highway, town way, causeway or bridge” may file suit against the county or town responsible for the repair of the road. Liability only exists if the commissioner, officer, road commissioner, or authorized person had 24 hours’ actual notice of the condition. If the injured person had notice of the condition before the accident, he or she may only recover compensation if he or she had previously notified a municipal officer of the hazard.
To assert the right to damages, the victim or his or her representative must notify the county commissioner or municipal officers of the claim in writing within 180 days of the crash. The notice must specify the nature of the injuries and the location of the defect, as well as set forth the claim for compensation. This type of lawsuit must be filed within one year of the accident.
Recovery from a town is limited to a maximum of $6,000 for bodily injury and property damage and $25,000 for the loss of life. Claims arising from a single occurrence are limited to a total of $300,000 for all claims. 23 M.R.S.A. 3654. Loss of companionship, society, and comfort of a person killed in an accident arising from a road defect are not recoverable under this law.The State Tort Claims Act
The Maine Tort Claims Act exposes governmental entities to liability for property damage, bodily injury, or death caused by negligence in “construction, street cleaning or repair operations on any highway, town way, sidewalk, parking area, [or] causeway….” The statute also applies to street signs, traffic lights, guardrails, and other appurtenances. It limits damages recoverable from a governmental entity to a maximum of $400,000 for any claim arising from a single occurrence.
A person bringing a lawsuit under the Act must file a written notice within 180 days of the accrual of the claim. Where the notice is sent and to whom it is addressed depends upon the governmental entity involved. The notice must include the claimant’s name and address, and the name and address of any attorney or representative. It must also include a statement of the basis of the claim, the circumstances of the act or occurrence, the name and address of any governmental employee involved in the incident, information about the injury, and the amount of damages sought. Suit must be filed within two years after the claim accrues.Consult a Maine Lawyer for Your Auto Accident Case
Claims arising from defective road conditions have specific requirements because the potentially liable party is a governmental entity. There are special notice requirements and a shorter limitations period. If you have been hurt in Maine as the result of a road defect, the auto accident attorneys at Briggs & Wholey have the skill and knowledge to help you. We understand the special rules for claims against a governmental entity. Contact us online or call us at (888) 596-1099 to set up a free consultation.