Dear Woman Motorist Automotive Law:
I just paid $450.00 to have my axle replaced that was totally broken driving over a major pothole one night in the rain. I didn't even see it. My mechanic says that I can sue the city for this. Please advise me where to get information to start.
Thank you in advance.
By the way, I drive a '80 BMW and believe me, parts are not cheap!
Attorney Steve Swann's Answer
The question of the city's liability is probably more complicated than your mechanic can imagine. There is something called "sovereign immunity" that in some parts of the country prevent governmental entities from being liable for negligence. For the law, you will need to contact a local attorney.
However, there are some things you should do immediately, presuming the law is on your side. First, go to the pothole area and investigate its actual condition (presuming it has not been paved over). Photos are good; video can be great. Use a measuring stick to show depth. I think a dramatic way to do this would be to get a tire and wheel and slowly roll it into the hole, while the camera is running. If the pothole has been repaired, contact the city to find out when it was done.
You will need proof that your car problem is due to the pothole, and not some preexisting condition. Perhaps the mechanic can help there.
Finally, if the law is on your side, consider small claims court if your jurisdiction has one. Most of us cannot affort to spend thousands of dollars on a $500 problem. You may be able to get an attorney to spend an hour or so with you and "teach" you "how to win your case." I hope this is helpful. Good luck.
Attorney Steve Swann for Woman Motorist Automotive Law
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Disclaimer: The responses to legal questions on automobile law, and the information provided by Womanmotorist.com and Mr. Swann, are offered only for general educational purposes. They are not offered as and do not constitute legal advice or legal opinions. Mr. Swann is licensed in Virginia and Tennessee, and this information should not be considered as a substitute for specific legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. For assistance in locating your own automobile law attorney, you should contact your state, county or city bar association, or the Center for Auto Safety, Washington, D.C.