The liability of the Town is set and limited by state law. Generally, the Town is liable only for specific acts of negligence in responding to dangerous conditions, not for the dangerous conditions themselves. For example, the Town is liable if it does not repair a pothole within a reasonable time after discovering it - the Town is not responsible for keeping the streets free of potholes. The law also imposes strict requirements for filing claims. Claims involving streets (potholes, etc) must be filed in writing with 30 days of the incident. If you believe you meet the legal criteria for a claim against the Town, you should file a claim against the Town.
Potholes are generally caused by the combination of the expansion and contraction of freezing and thawing water underneath the road surface and the compression and recompression caused by motor vehicles passing over the surface. Once the surface of the road is broken, the pieces are knocked away by passing cars and the material underneath is washed away by rain. The freezing and thawing conditions in the early springtime can produce a very large number of potholes overnight. DPW puts crews out throughout the winter and spring to fill potholes. Pothole reports can be submitted by calling the DPW at (413) 525-5400 ext 1200. Potholes are also caused by contractors who dig up a street to make utility connections or repairs.
Under state law, the Town is responsible for repairing defects in public ways. The law does not guaranty the safe condition of public ways. The law makes the Town liable for damages caused by defects only if the Town fails to make repairs within a reasonable time after the defect appears. We use 36 hours as a reasonable time to repair a pothole after it is reported. Even if the Town is negligent for not repairing a pothole on a timely basis, state law prevents the Town from paying the claim if the driver was also negligent. Exceeding the speed limit is the most common form of driver negligence.