Yes, You Can Sue The City Over Bad Roads
While the common belief of most people is "We can't do anything about the bad roads." that's not entirely true. It may take a little chumming up to an ambulance chasing lawyer, but if your vehicle is damaged by the terrible roads in Lawton, you could have the law on your side to collect damages and makes headlines about our the condition of our roads.
You ever hit a pothole so hard your soul leaves your body for a moment? Yeah, been there too. How about trying to control your vehicle at the posted speed limit on Roller Coaster Road (Lee Boulevard)... It's not limited though to potholes and just terrible driving roads either. This applies to poor draining roads too, which you may or may not be familiar with.
I drive Cache Road nearly everyday, and when we get rain it fills up to the curbs in some places. Prior to it being called The Green Mile because of all of the weed dispensaries, the locals called it The River Cache because you had to sail your vehicle through it. It's not just Cache Road that has this problem though. Sheridan Road up North has a huge problem with water drainage as does 11st Street South. The flooded roads of Lawton are so famous, it made national news a few years ago. So if drive into standing water and your vehicle takes damage, the city could be liable.
Don't get me wrong, I don't want Lawton to be sued. The thought crossed my mind that they'll just tack more fees onto our water bill since that's historically how they circumvent unpopular and regressive taxes... but then I read something that sounded similar. A Texas town voted a capital improvement tax on the premise of new roads, and when the city spent that money elsewhere (there was no mention of purchasing a failing mall from a well connected friend) and decided to tack a charge on the water bill to pay for roads, citizens sued the city for fraud, since their CIP vote was supposed to be the money, and they actually won the case. So if anything, there's precedence there...
Here are some of the reasons a citizen could sue the city over roads:
- Missing line markers
- Improper drainage which can cause hydroplaning on wet roads
- Lack of visible road signs
- Malfunctioning traffic signals
- Oil and chip repairs that haven’t been resurfaced in a timely manner
- Road shoulder drop-offs
- Poorly maintained construction zones
- Missing or damaged guardrails
- Failure to plow, salt or de-ice roads in a timely manner during a snow storm
And here's the catch... you must prove:
- The government entity knew about the poorly maintained road (or should reasonably have known about the safety issue)
- The government entity failed to make all necessary repairs in a reasonable amount of time
Now before someone from city hall hops on the phone with my boss asking for my hide, let me be clear. I'm not suggesting anyone sue the City of Lawton. I would never, I live here... I'm just sharing the story of a very similar sized Texas town that won the same battle we seem to be fighting.