This blog post focuses on municipal liability in Georgia for defects on public roads. By municipal liability I am referring only to incorporated cities or towns within Georgia and not counties or the state. Counties in Georgia generally have sovereign immunity for defects in roads (though there are exceptions and someone injured by a defective county road should consult an attorney to see if a legal theory exists to pursue a claim). Claims against the State of Georgia / Georgia Department of Transportation are governed by the Georgia State Tort Claims Act, O.C.G.A. § 51-21-20 et seq. When municipalities are negligent in constructing or maintaining public roads for which they are responsible to maintain or when they have actual notice of a roadway defect (or when a defect has been around long enough that notice can be inferred) then O.C.G.A. § 32-4-93 applies.
The full text of O.C.G.A. § 32-4-93 reads:
(a) A municipality is relieved of any and all liability resulting from or occasioned by defects in the public roads of its municipal street system when it has not been negligent in constructing or maintaining the same or when it has no actual notice thereof or when such defect has not existed for a sufficient length of time for notice thereof to be inferred.
(b) A municipality is relieved of any and all liability resulting from or occasioned by defective construction of those portions of the state highway system or county road system lying within its corporate limits or resulting from the failure of the department or the county to maintain such roads as required by law unless the municipality constructed or agreed to perform the necessary maintenance of such road.
This area of the law can be very nuanced and often difficult to determine whether a road within the city limits of a Georgia municipality is maintained by the city, county, or the state. When an auto accident occurs, typically the at-fault driver for the collision is responsible. However, additional parties such as cities can potentially be responsible when a roadway defect is the cause or contributes to a car wreck. Sometimes, additional third parties such a paving contractors can also be held responsible. Often, a case must begin without ruling out the potential liability of a city, county, the state, or contractors when a serious injury or fatality accident appears to be caused in part or wholly by a defective road. These claims must be pursued promptly as, for example, an ante litem notice must be served upon a city within six months of the accident to pursue a claim in most cases.
If you or a loved one have been injured in an auto accident in Georgia and believe a roadway defect contributed, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation.
Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.