Can Cyclists Sue Cities for Poor Road Conditions After an Injury?

If you were severely injured in a bike accident because of a bike lane or roadway in bad shape, you might wonder whether you can sue the city (or any other entity in charge of maintaining the road) for the poor road conditions.

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When Cities Can be Sued

You can sue a city for poor road conditions tied to an accident that caused you injuries or property damage if you are able to:

  • Prove that the city had a duty of care towards you and it breached it.
  • Prove that the city’s or city employees’ negligence or incompetence caused the injury.
  • Prove that the city knew or should have known about the problem that ultimately led to your injury.
  • Prove that there is an actual injury (and its extent).
  • File a claim with the city first, asking for compensation for your injuries and loss, but the city hasn’t provided an answer or failed to settle your claim outside a courtroom.

By “poor road conditions” one can understand potholes, cracked or broken roads, sinkholes, narrow bicycle lanes, poorly designed bicycle lanes, confusing traffic signs, lack of signage, debris on the road, poorly managed roadside trees that have negatively impacted the road, etc.

In 2019, a Portland man sued the city because of a city worker’s failure to properly mark a metal cable strung across public trail. The man claims that he got seriously injured after riding into the difficult-to-see cable. He is still fighting the local council and asks for more than $170,000 compensation to cover his medical bills and lost income along with an extra $1,000,000 for his “pain and suffering.”

More than two decades earlier, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance had sued the City of Portland for failing to build bike lanes as state law mandated.

In 2014, the City of Chicago was sued and lost to a cyclist who got severely disabled and “disfigured” in a serious bike accident caused by a faulty designed bike path in a public park. The man won $9.5 million in total damages.

What If the Bike Accident Was Partly My Fault?

 If your own negligence paired with poor road conditions caused the injuries and/or property loss, you can still sue the city but the amount of your compensation may be significantly reduced, depending on the shared-fault rules in your home state.

There are three main systems to determine the amount of damages in a personal injury case when the victim is also to blame for the accident:

  • Pure comparative negligence: If you are to blame for the bike accident, the value of your case will be reduced by your percent of fault. For example, if you were 25% at fault for the bike accident and you were awarded $20,000 after suing the city, your award will be reduced to $15,000, $5,000 being your share of fault. (This system is in place in Alaska, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington.)
  • Pure contributory negligence: In the states running this system, you cannot collect any compensation for an injury after a bike crash caused by poor road conditions if you were at fault for the accident even by a tiny bit. Pure contributory negligence is applied across Alabama, District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.
  • Modified comparative fault: Under this system of fault, you cannot recover any damages if you were at least 50% or 51% at fault for the bike accident.

Determining fault when the cyclist is also to blame can be tricky as all parties liable for the accident will fight tooth and nail to reduce their liability. So, it is a wise idea to hire a seasoned personal injury attorney to help you build a strong case.


When the city management is liable for a bike accident caused by poorly maintained roads, cyclists can sue municipalities to recover damages for their injuries, pain and suffering after a crash (more details in the link). But if the cyclist is also to blame for the accident, like ignoring a stop signal or veering without warning, his or her compensation can be greatly reduced in a courtroom or not be awarded at all, depending on the fault system in his or her home state.

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