San Francisco, CA asked in Personal Injury for California

Q: I was riding my bike downhill on a city street, hit a pothole, flipped off my bike, & broke bones. Can I sue the city?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Randall R. Walton
Randall R. Walton PRO label
  • San Marcos, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Maybe. Suing a governmental entity for a defect in public property is usually a tough case. In many ways it depends on the size of the hole and whether the city was aware of it (or should have been aware of it). It also depends on your conduct. The law, of course, assumes you're going to ride your bike in a safe manner and look out for obvious dangers. When you ride a bike you assume a certain amount of risk. This is a long way of saying that the viability of a case against the city we survive or fail based on the details of your specific case, but yes, the city has a duty to keep the roads safe.

Glen D. Duvel
Glen D. Duvel
  • Santa Ana, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: You can, but successfully suing a public entity (city) for a dangerous condition is a difficult and expensive endeavor. Among the obstacles you would have to overcome would be: how long had the pothole been there, how big was the pothole, did the city have notice of the pothole, and should the city have known about the pothole. Those issues are necessary to determine liability. Similar problems that could diminish your claim could be: how fast were you going, were you driving recklessly, should you have seen it, and if you were going slower, would you have seen it or not crashed. If all these obstacles can be negotiated, then you could be successful. However, the legal/expert fees needed to accomplish this could exceed the value of the case based on your damages (broken bones).

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