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Damage caused by bad road surface: hold the municipality liable?

Imagine this: you are suddenly driving through a deep pothole in the road. You suffered damage due to poor road surface. Can you now hold the municipality liable? Depending on the circumstances of the case, this is indeed an option. But what should you take into account? And what is the procedure for holding the municipality liable for bad road surface? We will go into it further for you in this article.

Holding the municipality liable for bad road surface: you can always try

Although the municipality is a government body, you also always have the option of initiating liability proceedings. Whether the proceedings are successful is, of course, a second question. Have you suffered considerable damage to your car? Is this, in your opinion, due to bad road surface? Then you can always try to hold the responsible municipality liable. But how do you proceed?

hold municipality liable for bad road surface

What are the procedures for holding municipality liable?

You believe that the municipality is liable for the damage you have suffered to your car because of a bad road surface. Of course, it is important to find out which municipality is responsible for the road surface. It may well be that the road where you suffered damage falls under provincial responsibility. Have you found the person responsible? Then follow the next steps:

  1. Contact the relevant municipality and explain the situation.
  2. Ask for the forms you need to fill in to start the procedure.
  3. Include an accompanying document with further explanations and supporting documents (e.g. photographs).

After you have submitted these documents, the municipality will make a so-called 'administrative decision'. This means that if you do not agree with this decision, you can lodge an objection with the same municipality. Is the decision on the objection still not desired? Then, of course, you are free to initiate proceedings before the administrative courts. Have you come this far? To be on the safe side, call in the help of a lawyer!

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Can I claim liability from the municipality due to poor road surface?

A municipality has a duty of maintenance. For example, they must ensure that the road surface is in good condition and that a section of road that has been broken up is properly sealed off. This is laid down in the following law:

Article 6:174 paragraph 1 BW
The possessor of a building which does not meet the requirements which may be set for it under the given circumstances, and thereby causes danger to persons or property, shall, when this danger materializes, be liable, unless liability under the preceding section would have been lacking if he had known of this danger at the time of its occurrence.

The municipality must maintain the road properly so that no dangerous situations arise for road users. If this does happen, you may be able to hold the municipality liable for overdue maintenance.

Situations of force majeure municipality: no compensation for damage to bad road surface

Before investing time and effort in liability proceedings, it is good to discuss the following points. Can the municipality prove force majeure with regard to the road surface? Then in many cases you can be sure that no compensation will be paid. Below are a number of examples of force majeure in this context:

  1. Lack of financial resources: did the municipality not have the financial resources to repair the road surface at that location? Then in some cases this can be seen as force majeure.
  2. Driver's own responsibility: Was a warning given at the scene about poor road surface and did you act accordingly? Then this is also a force majeure situation.
  3. Lack of time: It may be that the damage to the road surface has only just been caused. Did the municipality, in all reasonableness, not yet have the time to solve the situation? Then the liability procedure may not be successful.

In any case, try to ensure that you are not the cause of the 'force majeure' argument. Above all, adhere to all traffic warnings concerning the road surface!

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