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Who is liable for biking accidents due to potholes?

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2023 | Premises Liability |

The Vindicator reported George Farris suffered serious injuries when he had an accident on his bicycle due to potholes. He sued Mill Creek MetroParks for damages, but the parks claimed immunity from liability under Ohio law.

Now the case may be heading to the Ohio Supreme Court after a lower court ruled in favor of the MetroParks. The question of liability is still up in the air. So, how does Ohio law handle liability on public roadways for accidents due to potholes? In Ohio, determining liability for bike accidents caused by potholes hinges on several key factors.

Reports of the pothole

The first step is to establish whether anyone reported the pothole to the authorities. Ohio law mandates that public entities, such as city or county governments, must receive written notice of a dangerous condition, such as a hazardous pothole before they are liable for any accidents resulting from it.

Time since report

If there was a report of the pothole, the next step is to consider how long it has been since the report. The law presumes that a public entity has a reasonable amount of time to address hazards. However, this timeframe can vary depending on the specific circumstances.

Characteristics of the pothole

The size and depth of the pothole also play a role in determining liability. Smaller, shallower potholes may be less dangerous and may not lead to liability unless they result from negligence on the part of the public entity. On the other hand, larger and deeper potholes that pose a substantial risk to bikers are more likely to result in liability if the responsible authorities fail to take timely action.

Cyclist’s actions

Bikers have a responsibility to exercise reasonable care and diligence while navigating roads, including avoiding obvious hazards like potholes. If a cyclist encounters a pothole that is clearly visible and avoidable but chooses not to avoid it, negligence may be a contributing factor in any resulting accident.

In Ohio, liability for bike accidents due to potholes is a complex matter. The Ohio Supreme Court may soon hear a case that can help to clarify at least a portion of the law.