Plan for Potholes? Not so easy

Plan for Potholes? Not so easy


On a recent road trip down route 17 to one of our offices in Binghamton, I hit one of those nasty potholes. Sometimes people joke about them because they’re everywhere, but when they’re a big like this one was, it’s no laughing matter. This one took out TWO of my tires!

When you hit a pothole hard, you know it. But even this one surprised me and I thought I’d seen it all! I knew I hit it hard, and then my car told me I had a flat tire, that the pressure was low. My car doesn’t even come with a spare, I bought one anyways just to have it. I got out and I thought, okay, maybe I can put air in it or whatever. I got out and two tires were just totally gone! That’s not a happy thing, even if you have a spare, because you’re out of luck with two! It was on Route 17 in Liberty, just outside of Binghamton, NY.

This pothole was particularly bad. This one was about five feet long, and the problem is you don’t see it and you’re passing somebody. It was about a foot and a half deep. Fortunately it didn’t cause a serious accident, nobody got hurt, but still I’ve got the expense of replacing two tires. So you might wonder, “What has to happen before you can sue a town or a county to fix that if you’ve got serious car damage, or have a serious accident or injury?

The first thing is, if it ever happens you should put them on notice. This is obviously the state highway. If it’s a non-state roadway, the county roads have different legal responsibilities than other highways. All those other towns, villages, cities, you have to have a prior written of the effect of the highway. This is in upstate. New York City might be a little different. State highways and county highways, they have an obligation to fix the roads that they know, or should know are dangerous. If it existed for a long enough time, they have an obligation to fix it. If you’ve got a hole this big on the highway, somebody should be out there checking, because first of all you’ve got cars going 70 miles an hour.

In my case, I was passing somebody, I was fortunate that I could stabilize my car. If there was a bad accident, those are the kind of cases that you could sue the state, and/or if it was a county highway. I’ve handled those, those highway defect cases, they have to be bad cases, because they’re long and complex, because there’s all sorts of everyone to blame besides the road.

Bringing a case against the State of New York in the court of claims can be a lifetime experience. It’s not the fastest process in the world. Maybe years before they even get to it, let alone rule on it. It is a long time so it would need to be pretty serious, meaning a big case.

For example, if you have a $1000 deductible on your car, pay the $1000 because you’re going to spend 10 times that trying to sue the state. Highway cases are only for bad cases, and you never want one. You never want to be in that situation, period.

As always, don’t go it alone, phone 1-800-608-3333, Stanley Law. You can also email me directly at