With high temperatures and lots of sunshine in the summer and frigid cold with snow in the winter, New Mexico is known for its beautifully distinct four seasons. But while the change in scenery is nice, this rapidly changing weather, unfortunately, contributes to potholes and other roadway defects, often causing property damage and personal injury to drivers.
Generally speaking, when someone suffers a personal injury or property damage caused by the negligence of another, the injured party has cause to sue. But what happens when the party that is at-fault happens to be a state or local governmental agency responsible for the roadway? Can you sue the government?
The Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity
Ordinarily, under the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, when the government is acting within its official functions, it is protected from lawsuits brought by citizens – unless it consents to them. However, there are some exceptions. One such exception is called the Maintenance of Public Highways. This requires that all streets, roadways, and highways that are available to the public must be kept “in reasonable repair” so that they maintain their reasonable safety and convenience. In other words, if a governmental agency fails to maintain any of the roadways open to the public that it is responsible for, it can, in fact, be negligent and therefore sued by a citizen without its consent.
However, it is not enough for the injured individual to prove that he or she suffered an injury due to the roadway. For a case of negligence against a government agency, he or she must show that the agency not only had notice of the defect but also failed to remedy it within a reasonable amount of time.
What Constitutes a Roadway Defect?
It’s important to note that while many roadways are quite wide, when it comes to any defect claim against the government, the only part of the road that may be included for purposes of the claim is the part upon which the car travels. In other words, roadways defects may not include the shoulder of the road or other parts aside from in between the white fog lines. As a result of this limitation, roadway defect claims only include potholes, uneven surfaces or other parts of the road upon which cars drive. An individual may not bring a claim for the poor design of a roadway. This is not considered a roadway defect for purposes of this type of lawsuit.
An individual’s ability to sue a governmental agency for a road defect hinges on sending written notice to the governmental agency within the specified amount of time as listed by their jurisdiction. Although these time limits vary by jurisdiction, the injured party must generally provide this written notice within about 60 days of the incident, or else he or she could lose the opportunity to recover damages altogether. The written notice must include the following elements:
- The injured person’s name and injuries
- The precise location of the roadway defect
- The nature of the roadway defect
- The names of any witnesses to the incident known at the time of sending the notice
MPJ Law Firm Can Help Those in NM Who Have Been Injured Due to a Roadway Defect
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a roadway defect, it can greatly impact your life. It can be difficult enough dealing with extensive injuries, but it can be even harder when you are left to pick up the pieces financially. It is always difficult to bring a case against a governmental agency, so it’s extremely important that you follow all of the requirements for doing so. This is where a knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney can prove very helpful.
At MPJ Law Firm, we have a deep understanding of roadway defects and understand the effects that such defects often inflict upon just about all aspects of your life. We will always act in your best interest. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!
Posted in: Personal Injury