Driving on South Carolina roads can be like navigating an obstacle course - there are potholes, streets that flood easily, and debris that can fly up and crack windshields.
People get hurt. Sometimes people die because of poor road conditions.
Did you know that it's sometimes possible to get the state or municipality to compensate you for this kind of damage? If the government is responsible for creating a hazardous situation or for not fixing it once they are put on notice, they can be held liable for the damage caused.
South Carolina has paid about $50 million since 2010 to settle vehicle damage and personal injury claims, and there were more than 3,000 vehicle-damage claims made against the Department of Transportation in both 2015 and 2016.
When is the State Liable for Potholes and Damaged Roads?
When the State is on notice of damaged roads and they do not repair them within a reasonable amount of time, they are liable for any damage caused by their negligence.
It is important to note that the Department of Transportation (DOT) must be on notice that repairs are needed - for example, if you are the first person to have damage caused by that pothole, you probably will not be compensated.
But, chances are you're not the first person to hit it - neglected potholes are the cause of most of the vehicle-damage claims filed against the state.
One way you can find out if the state was aware of a pothole or to report a pothole is by visiting the website potholehunt.com. SCDOT will need to be made aware of the claim, however, and your SC auto accident attorney will determine whether SCDOT was on notice prior to your accident.
Ok, But How do I Sue the Government?
You can't just file an ordinary, run-of-the-mill lawsuit against the DOT or any government agency.
There are only two ways to file suit against the government or a government employee in South Carolina - one is under the SC Tort Claims Act (SCTCA) and the other is what is called a 1983 action in federal court.
For an auto accident caused by a pothole or other dangerous road condition, you will most likely file suit under the SCTCA - a complex area of law that has specific requirements for how you frame the lawsuit and limitations on the types of damages you can recover.
What if it's a Small Claim?
If the accident resulted in significant property damage or personal injury, you should immediately contact your personal injury lawyer and get them to handle the case for you.
On the other hand, if there was minimal damage to the vehicle and no personal injury, it may not be a "financially viable" case for your attorney. In this situation, you are not simply out of luck - if the damages were less than $1500, you may be able to make a claim to the DOT and get paid:
- Get the form: Go to the DOT website. Under "Featured Content," click on the "Damage Claims" link to access the form you will need.
- Make your claim: In Horry County, send your claim to P.O. Box 1663, Conway, SC 29528. If the damage occurred in another county, there are instructions on the DOT website.
Along with the form, you should include:
- A copy of the damaged vehicle's registration;
- Paid repair invoice or two estimates; and
- Proof of insurance.
The SCDOT also has a toll-free customer service line at 855-467-2368.
Myrtle Beach Auto Accident Lawyers
If you were in an auto accident that was caused by a defective road condition, you will need to talk to a Myrtle Beach auto accident lawyer who knows how to file suit against government agencies as soon as possible.
Schedule a free consultation with a Myrtle Beach personal injury lawyer on the Axelrod team today. Call us at (843) 916-9300 or fill out our contact form to set up a free initial consultation about your case.