Potholes and Rocks: Who is Liable When Road Conditions Cause an Accident?


The United States has a network of roads that extends over four (4) million miles, and more than 2.6 million miles of that network is composed of paved roads maintained by the government. So it’s no surprise that there may be defects somewhere along these roadways at various times. Defects in New Orleans road conditions can cause an accident, and it may not be your fault, but then who picks up the bill for damage caused by these defects?

Who is Responsible for Maintenance of Louisiana Roadways?

Roads are maintained by city, county, state and federal government entities. More than one agency can be responsible for a roadway as well. For example, the state of Louisiana might be responsible for filling all potholes and paving all roads within the state, while Baton Rouge might be responsible for snowplowing and de-icing the roadways.

Determining which agency was responsible for a defect in a roadway is important not only for suing the proper party but for determining if the particular agency can be sued at all (See below).

Common Roadway Defects

  • Design flaws such as dangerously designed curves, entrance or exit ramps that are too short, dangerous street drop-offs such as ravines or cliffs, poor drainage, and poorly placed signs and traffic signals
  • Construction zone accidents can be created by poor practices of construction workers. Failure to properly follow approved plans, shoddy materials or poor workmanship can all decrease the quality of road conditions and increase the likelihood of an accident.
  • Poor maintenance practices can allow road surfaces to become damaged with potholes or other dangerous road conditions.
  • Failure to adapt to new road conditions such as dangerous road subsidence or sinking, or ignoring changing traffic patterns or accident patterns.
  • Weather and erosion can have a major impact on the condition and performance of a road surface.

Government’s Immunity from Suit

If you believe a roadway defect was responsible for your accident, you will first need to determine if the government agency responsible can actually be sued.

Most government agencies, including states and the federal government, have immunity from lawsuits, which means that they cannot be sued (called “sovereign immunity” when it is applied to the federal and state governments, and “governmental immunity” when it is applied to city, county and other smaller governments). If you need help determining this, please contact the attorneys at Smiley Law Firm.

Whether a government agency ends up being responsible for the defect in the roadway or not, you should report all hazardous road conditions to local agencies to benefit other drivers on the roadways. You can also plan to avoid hazardous situations before leaving home by checking New Orleans road closures or a number of emerging traffic apps available for cell phones.

Learn More

Here at Smiley Law Firm, we write about the topic of motorcycle accident extensively. We have a number of blogs and articles covering the following topics. Please read them and leave comments if you find the information helpful.


  1. Sam Li

    on June 6, 2019

    I appreciate what you said about determining which party was at fault during a car crash. Working with a reliable injury attorney is vital if you have been hurt due to the fault of another. If I were to get hurt in an auto accident, I would find an attorney with a winning track record to work with.

  2. Shayla Cademis

    on May 31, 2019

    I didn’t know you could get compensation for things like losing a job, having difficulties with mortgage payments, or getting a divorce after an auto accident. My brother-in-law was in a car accident last week after another driver ran a red light at an intersection. He’s definitely had a few medical bills, but I’ll have to let him know he should be aware of other possible compensations. Hopefully we can help him find a good attorney in his area. Thanks for the info!

  3. Bob

    on May 30, 2019

    I love your personal injury lawyer tips. My father just got hit by a drunk driver. I’ll have to get him a lawyer so he can sue the guy to his last dime.

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