Who is liable for heavy damage to the underside of my carif I ran over open manhole cover?

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Who is liable for heavy damage to the underside of my carif I ran over open manhole cover?

This happened after exiting the interstate.I’m pretty sure I was in city jurisdiction, but the MA State Police were there too when I reported it. A semi and at least 2 other cars hit it too. The state gave me a spiel, “The Commonwealth is not responsible…”. Since it happened on a city road, I think that it should be the city’s responsibility and that they should reimburse me for my deductible. I can’t find the law on-line that would determine this. Will I get screwed? Should I sue? Class action? It’s happened before (found articles online). Who is liable – the state, city, nobody?

Asked on February 1, 2011 under Accident Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Municipalities and the state are generally liable for road conditions IF they either themselves caused it or had both notice of the condition and a chance to correct it. So if Commonwealth or city (as applicable) workers had opened the manhole and left it open without putting up warning cones or flags or etc.; or if the cover had been open for many hours or even a few days and complaints had been put in but they did nothing; then you might have a claim. On the other hand, if a heavy truck had recently run over the manhole, popping it loose; or some random teen or vandal had thought it funny to open it up and the authorities had been aware of that long enough to do anything, then there would be no liablity. As you can imagine, proving the state or city had responsiblity can therefore be a difficult and expensive undertaking. If you have collision insurance, the best thing would be to just claim under it.


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