Compensation for broken ankle stepping off bus into a pothole?

by Jim

I was riding on city public transit bus, going home after work. I exited through the rear-most sliding doors, which occasionally do not open all the way, so you need to push in the center to get them to open.

So I used my body's momentum to push forward and through the door, step off, and leading with my right foot, moved forward and down from about a foot or so off the ground.

I didn't notice until my foot broke the plane of where it was supposed to land that I stepped into a pothole, and by that point my ankle had already rolled and my entire body weight fell upon it, causing an "avulsion fracture off dislocated fibula" (according to my doctor's chicken-scratches, basically a broken ankle and ligament damage).

I'm currently on crutches and wear a shoe boot, and cannot put weight on my foot without severe pain. Am I capable of receiving compensation for this injury?

This occurred at a public bus stop, stepping off a public bus. However, there is an area of grass between the bus and the sidewalk itself; the pothole was located in this area of grass, and was hard to see as a result of overgrowth.

I can see difficulty with a claim because it's not immediately obvious enough to warrant an expectation to fix every single pothole like that in the city. However, I DO think that it should be filled in, or spray-painted or marked in some kind of fashion as it's a spot where people are literally expected to walk off the bus.

I'm a 33 year-old healthy man and I broke my ankle instantly, what about someone much older, or carrying a child, etc? What can be done about this? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Compensation for broken ankle stepping off bus into a pothole?":

Jim (Ohio):

You are referring to a government tort claim. This is a claim made by an individual who sustained property damage or personal injuries as a direct result of the government, or its agencies' or employees’ negligence.

While most government agencies and employees have traditionally been immune from civil suits under the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity, in recent years that immunity has been relaxed and government agencies have permitted affected parties to seek compensation for property damage and personal injuries.

You didn't mention if the pothole was located on a city, county, or state roadway. Each jurisdiction has its own rules and procedures for filing a tort claim. If the pothole was located in an Ohio city or county, you must turn to that jurisdiction to file your government tort injury claim.

If the pothole was located on a roadway maintained by the State of Ohio, you can file an injury claim with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The form for filing such a claim can be found here.

In the State of Ohio, government tort claims are handled by the Ohio Court of Claims.

However, for claims of $10,000 or less, the Ohio Court of Claims refers jurisdiction over the claim to an administrative magistrate. You can represent yourself in a court of Claims personal injury claim. The filing fee is only $25.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has a legal duty to the public to maintain its state’s highways. As an injured party, to succeed in an injury claim against the State of Ohio you must be able to prove the ODOT breached its legal duty, and the breach was the direct and proximate cause of your injury.

To succeed, you must also be able to prove the ODOT had actual or constructive notice of the pothole and failed to repair it in a reasonable amount of time.

Because of the seriousness of your injury and the difficulty in proving the city, county or state had sufficient notice to repair the pothole, your interests would be best served by seeking the advice and counsel of several personal injury attorneys in your area. Most will not charge for an initial office consultation.

If an attorney accepts your case, he or she will do so on a contingency fee basis. This means you will not have to pay the attorneys any legal fees until, and unless they succeed in settling the case or winning it in court.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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