Loose or missing manhole covers can trigger dangerous accidents that can injure or kill Chicagoans. A recent investigation found thousands of unsecured, out of place, or missing manhole covers throughout Chicago. When the city, utility, or phone company that owns the cover fails to make repairs and motorists or pedestrians are injured, victims can file personal injury lawsuits against the negligent party to recover compensation for their losses.
CBS Report: Unsafe Manholes in Chicago
In February 2018, CBS reported thousands of missing, loose, or out-of-position manhole covers in the city. In all, 3,449 complaints about missing or unsecured manhole covers and grates had been filed between 2016 and 2018.
Some of the worst streets in Chicago include Ashland Avenue, Cicero Avenue, and State Street. These streets have a long history of complaints about missing or damaged manhole covers.
The Dangers of Unsecured Manhole Covers
Loose covers can dislodge when vehicles pass over. This can cause the vehicle to veer out of control and can turn the manhole into a flying projectile that can injure other motorists or crash into pedestrians and bicyclists. At 200 pounds or more, a flying manhole cover can cause significant property damage, personal injuries, and even death.
In 2016, a 35-year-old Massachusetts woman was killed when the vehicle in front of her dislodged a cover which then flew through her windshield, struck her, and exited through the back window. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against multiple parties in 2019.
Multiple Entities May Be Liable for Injuries in Manhole Accidents
Utility providers or phone companies are responsible for conducting routine inspections and repairs to manholes, covers, and supporting structures they own. When they fail to inspect or repair a manhole, they are negligent in their duty to the public. Private companies can be held liable for property damage, personal injuries, medical expenses, and other costs that occur when a manhole cover causes an accident.
Similarly, the Chicago Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining its manhole covers. When the manhole is owned by a city agency, the city is not protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Courts have ruled that the negligence of a government entity in Illinois is grounds for a private citizen to file a lawsuit against the city. When filing suit against the city, individuals have one year to file their lawsuit in the Circuit Count of Cook County.