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Most drivers will hit or dodge a number of potholes on any given day, but if hit, that pothole could lead to serious damage to one’s vehicle, or worse serious injury to the driver or passengers. When this happens in California, the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) has set up a program for vehicle owners to receive compensation for damages due to poor road conditions. But, what is more cost-effective repairing potholes or paying drivers for damages?

Since 2007, almost $200 million dollars in damage claims have been filed; CalTrans estimates that in the San Francisco Bay Area alone approximately 1,500 drivers a year are filing claims against the state. In fact, roads are so bad that in 2011, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the Bay Area a D+ rating. How many claims must be filed before these dangerous roads are repaired? How many serious injuries are deaths must happen? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that from 2001 to 2010 nearly 70 people were killed in Bay Area auto accidents caused by poor road conditions.

Poor road conditions are not only affecting drivers; potholes, ruts, and gaps are also dangerous to bicyclists. Grizzly Peak Boulevard, traveled by bicyclists on a regular basis, has a long history of complaints regarding the battered roadway, but nothing has been done. If corrective action had been taken, a 53-year-old man whose front tire got caught in a two inch deep rut as he rounded a curve on Grizzly Peak Boulevard would be alive today. When the bike hit the rut, it stopped throwing the man into the path of an oncoming vehicle, and the driver of the vehicle could not stop in time. His widow has filed a lawsuit against the City of Oakland claiming it knew the roadway was dangerous, but failed to make improvements despite numerous complaints and the City violated a government code by failing to fix the dangerous road. Now that the City is facing a lawsuit, work crews have repaired the portion of Grizzly Peak Boulevard where the accident occurred.

Driver and bicyclists have a right to expect that our roadways are safe and well-maintained, free from defects, sink holes or potholes. Additionally, drivers and bicyclists should be warned in the event that such dangers exist in order to minimize risks. Unfortunately government agencies do not always put road repair as a top priority. Cases like this can directly force changes in dangerous road conditions that can save lives, but why should it take a fatal accident to improve road conditions especially ones that have been known for years to be dangerous? Transportation is the backbone of our economy; we depend on it. It is time to stop cutting corners; it is time to put safety first.

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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