Potholes are unsightly blemishes on our roadways. These fractures in the road surface can cause accidents and significant damage to automobiles. However, potholes present a particular danger to motorcyclists. Because of the lack of protection, a motorcycle provides its rider and the fact that they only have two wheels on the road surface, potholes often cause devastating motorcycle accidents. In many cases, a motorcyclist will sustain severe injuries or even suffer a wrongful death.
What Causes Potholes?
Roads are constructed in layers. The lowest layer is typically compacted dirt and gravel that allows water to drain under the roadway’s surface. The top layer is asphalt. The purpose of the asphalt is to provide a smooth driving surface while sealing the road from water seeping through to the lower levels. A pothole will form when the layer of asphalt cracks because of the shifting weather conditions and traffic stress.
Winter is a specifically harsh time on roadways. The drastic shifts in temperature between freezing and not coupled with moisture such as snow, rain, and ice damage the asphalt causing it to crack.
A pothole will begin to form when moisture begins to seep into the gravel level below through cracks or small openings in the asphalt. Moisture and water will then start to wash away some of the packed earth and form cavities under the road. This trapped water will then often freeze as the temperature drops overnight. When the water becomes ice, it will cause the ground around it to expand and push up on the paved surface above.
Next, when the temperature becomes warmer during the day, the ice underneath the surface melts, leaving a gap between the paved asphalt and the compacted earth below. Because of this gap, the asphalt layer is no longer being fully supported. When heavy vehicles drive or stop on the road surface, it causes the compromised asphalt to crack further. Eventually, the asphalt will continue to break apart and fall into the gap that was created below. When this occurs, a pothole is formed. These dangerous indentations on the road could range from small divets to significant sinkholes that completely impede traffic.
Potholes and Motorcycle Accidents
As stated above, when a motorcyclist hits a pothole, the results could be catastrophic. When a motorcycle hits a gaping hole on a highway, it is almost impossible for the rider to maintain control.
When traffic is congested and obstructs forward views, a motorcyclist might not see a coming pothole. Trucks and cars can often avoid potholes in the middle of the road by driving directly over them. However, when a motorcyclist is behind a vehicle that passes over a pothole, it is often too late to see and avoid the danger. Even when driving at a relatively safe distance behind another vehicle, a pothole can be upon a motorcyclist before they have time to react. This situation is even more dangerous at night when many potholes are entirely lost in the shadows.
If a pothole is near an intersection, a motorcyclist making a turn might not notice it before it is too late – especially if the bike is in the middle of a turn.
Another danger is that a pothole could fill with water and appear as a puddle or slick area in the road. If a puddle is hiding a significant pothole, a motorcyclist could crash because they believed the roadway was just wet.
Legal Liability for Motorcycle Accidents Caused by Potholes
While natural reasons and normal traffic patterns often cause potholes, the road’s maintenance usually rests with the city, state, or federal government. Suppose a pothole is allowed to exist for an unreasonable amount of time without being repaired. In that case, a motorcyclist injured in an accident caused by the pothole could have a legal claim against the municipal agency charged with maintaining the roadway. In some cases, damaged roads are the result of negligent conduct by a repair crew or company.
Riding a motorcycle has many inherent risks. A motorcyclist gives up substantial physical protection to enjoy the feel and exhilaration of riding on two wheels. Potholes present a danger to motorcyclists, but they are preventable.
Proving that a government agency was at fault for a pothole accident is complex. In nearly every case, the municipal authority will deny responsibility while attempting to blame the motorcyclists for the accident. However, if a government agency was aware that the pothole existed, or any other defect for that matter, they could be held responsible for the injuries caused by the pothole. One of the crucial elements to prove is that the government entity had notice of the pothole’s existence. Through a thorough investigation, an experienced Maryland auto accident attorney might be able to demonstrate that the municipality had notice and failed to address the situation. In the end, the responsibility for ensuring that the roadways are safe lies with the city, state, or federal government.
Injuries Suffered in a Motorcycle Accident Caused by a Pothole
Because of a motorcycle design, a motorcyclist could be seriously injured in a single-vehicle accident caused by a pothole. If a pothole results in a rear-end collision or another type of accident because a motorist was speeding, tailgating, or driving while experiencing road rage, the injuries could be catastrophic or deadly.
When a motorcyclist is involved in an accident caused by a pothole, they could suffer a variety of severe injuries. In some cases, a crash could result in spinal or back injuries causing the victim a lifetime of discomfort and pain or leaving them permanently paralyzed. Even if a motorcyclist is wearing a protective helmet, a devastating accident at high speeds could cause a traumatic brain injury. Even less severe injuries, such as road rash or fractures, will require medical attention and substantial recovery time.