“The American Automobile Association estimated in the five years prior to 2016 that 16 million drivers in the United States have suffered damage from potholes to their vehicle including tire punctures, bent wheels, and damaged suspensions with a cost of $3 billion a year.” (Wikipedia)
Pothole problems are by no means exclusive to South Africa, but we certainly do seem to have more than our fair share of them.
As a recent High Court decision illustrates, if you suffer any form of loss as a result of a pothole, hold whoever is responsible to account. Sue for your damages!
Injured motorcyclist awarded damages
- Descending a pass on a provincial road with a group of fellow bikers, a motorcyclist leaned into a corner on a sharp bend then hit and went over a pothole. He lost control of the bike which then skidded across the road surface, injuring his shoulder and arm and damaging his clothing and motorbike.
- He was taken by ambulance to hospital, underwent surgery, and although discharged after four days, still two years later is taking painkillers and undergoing physiotherapy for ongoing pain and restricted use of his shoulder and arm.
- An expert confirmed that he had had no opportunity to avoid the pothole and thus the accident. It was also clear that an attempt had been made to repair the pothole.
- He had suffered permanent injuries which “have left him greatly compromised and vulnerable.”
- He sued the Province for damages, and was no doubt pleasantly surprised when the MEC made no effort to defend the action. However, he still had to prove his claim…
Proving negligence, and loss
The Court confirmed that the onus is on a claimant to prove negligence on the part of the local authority, even when, as in this case, the MEC had taken no steps to defend the claim and it was uncontested.
Finding from the uncontradicted evidence of the biker and his expert witnesses that the MEC was solely negligent for the accident in failing to live up to the responsibility “of building, maintaining road infrastructure and putting up road signs cautioning road users of the dangers of potholes”, the Court held him liable for the claimant’s proved damages.
The Court awarded the claimant damages of R850,000 in respect only of those aspects of his claim that he had led evidence to support (future medical treatment and general damages). That figure could increase – although he had failed to produce evidence in support of his further claims (for loss of earnings and damage to property), he can still re-institute action for them.
So, do you have a claim?
You quite possibly do have a claim for any losses you suffer after hitting a pothole. Considering our courts’ attitude to the responsibility of local authorities for road maintenance, proving negligence may not be that hard. Line up also evidence to support all aspects of your claim.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.