In Indianapolis, potholes are not just a nuisance for drivers of all vehicles, but can also be deadly — especially for those who ride motorcycles. Most recently, a pothole took the life of a Marion County sheriff's deputy.
Deputy Eric Stofer, off-duty at the time, was riding southbound on Acton Road when his 2002 Suzuki motorcycle hit a pothole, causing him to lose control. Stofer was later found beneath his motorcycle, with no signs that any other vehicle was involved in the accident.
Potholes throughout the area have drawn 14,500 complaints this year — or about 9,000 more than the previous year. Marion County is thought to have over 4,000 potholes. Indianapolis officials have been quick to note that crews of multiple workers are out each day, making sure the potholes are filled, and that the Indianapolis Department of Public Works has spent $1.4 million on labor and materials. Potholes usually occur when the snow and ice melt, with the resulting water seeping through cracks into the pavement, which later causes the pavement to rise and eventually break. Given the severe cold weather periods the state has endured, it is not surprising that the number of potholes has increased.
For motorcyclists, this becomes a serious problem because a motorcycle lacks the same balance as an ATV or a car. If the driver of a car hit a pothole, the result might be a wheel getting bent or the car being jarred out of alignment, but the car would otherwise keep going. On the other hand, if a motorcycle hits a pothole that is four or five inches deep — or deep enough to get near the axle line — the motorcycle is stopped, resulting in an accident. This is a serious concern for the 200,000 registered motorcyclists who seek to get back on the road after the long winter.
When a motorcycle rider gets seriously hurt or killed through no fault of his or her own, the rider or his/her "estate" has the option to sue the other party involved. However, the situation becomes tougher when the other "party" is the government. Most municipal governments, as well as state and federal, have immunity from civil lawsuits except under very specific circumstances. One of those includes negligence. Typically, the negligence must be of a duty where the imminent injury of an individual was foreseeable. So if an Indiana family decided to sue the city for negligence due to potholes, they would likely need to show that the city should have acted much sooner to fill the pothole. Even if they were able to do so, they would also need to show that their loved one was less than 50 percent at fault for the accident, as Indiana has a system of modified comparative negligence. Those more than 50 percent at fault lose their right to collect in a lawsuit.
Miller & Falkner is an Indiana and Kentucky plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. If you need an Indiana personal injury attorney, contact us today for a free consultation.