Filing A Pothole Damage Claim

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Huge PotholeLast winter, I did a fair amount of driving in the outskirts of Washington D.C. and on one of those occasions, hit a pretty nasty pothole. I was only about a mile away from my destination so continued onward and then checked on the tire after I parked. I looked at it and, fortunately, no big deal. After my meeting, I drove back to my office. It was an uneventful, leisurely (stop & go traffic) thirty minute drive. After parking, I didn’t check the tire and just went inside. I didn’t notice I had a flat until I came back out, three hours later, at the end of the day to go home. Sonofa… fortunately, I had a spare and I had Costco tires, so I drove over to the local Costco and had the tire repaired for free (a great reason to get your tires from Costco if you can stand the wait).

One of my friends, he wasn’t so lucky. In fact, he saw the same pothole day after day after day (even calling it into the Virginia Department of Transportation, or whatever agency is in charge of roads in Virginia) on his commute and one day, by freak accident, caught the edge and it tore up his tire’s sidewall. He was furious. He saw that pothole every day, even reported it, and still it persisted and he wanted to know if he could get reimbursed for it.

Apparently it’s not a common problem. According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, “deteriorating urban pavement conditions cost the average driver more than $400 annually.” Four hundred dollars! The worst offenders are major metropolitan areas such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and even Baltimore, but TRIP estimates that 23% of major metropolitan roads are in poor condition.

Did you know that damage caused by a pothole may be reimbursable by the county, city, or state depending on the circumstances? Until my friend mentioned it, I didn’t.

Can You Win?

Governments aren’t as good at paying back money as they are about taking it in the first place, so you probably want to be pretty confident that you’ll win before going through the arduous process. The transportation authority is responsible for the damages if you suffered damage after they knew about the existence of the pothole. In some places, the transportation authority doesn’t even need to know about the existence of the pothole for you to be reimbursed. In those areas, it’s assumed that the responsibility of road maintenance falls on the transportation authority at all times. It’s pretty much a crapshoot.

How To File A Claim

First, you need to get your documents in order. You will need to provide repair bills, record of the location of the pothole, as well as the time and date of the accident.

Next, you need to determine who is responsible for the road. If it’s a city road, you’ll want the city’s Department of Transportation. If it’s a county road, you’ll want the county’s Department of Transportation. Lastly, if it’s a state road, then go to the state’s Department of Transportation. Some governments have online forms for you to fill out, otherwise require a phone call, but ultimately you might want go the route of the telephone so you talk to someone and get the full story on what the rules are for your jurisdiction.

Your claim may not be paid out but it’s worth a shot, sure beats filing a claim with your insurance company and getting your rates jacked up.

(Photo: rudiriet)

{ 7 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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7 Responses to “Filing A Pothole Damage Claim”

  1. fred@opc says:

    If the Government would actually spend all the taxes it collects under the auspices of “highway and infrastructure maintenance” on HIGHWAYs and INFRASTRUCTURE, we wouldn’t have this problem.

    It is an arduous process to get your money back from the Government – and once you figure the time you’ll need to take off work to take the county to court, it’ll pretty much be a wash.

  2. Ming says:

    It happened to me last winter on a road under construction. I filed and sent in all the paperwork. Then I called the DOT every week to follow up. The lady was sympathetic. She said there is an immunity law that protects the government meaning that the government is only liable IF I can prove that they are aware of the pothole and fail to do anything about it within 30 days (add more time for bad weather). She went thru their maintenance records/logs and said they did conduct a check. So she said I lost to the government. Then she said she can help me file a claim against the road construction contractor. A month later I got a letter from the contractor denying my claim.

  3. Karolyn says:

    I just got a flat tire and I am PISSED. My tires are those stupid low profile tires and it will surely cost me!

    Now I have to get it changed, check if it can be repaired (I bet not), and then buy an expensive tire that I can’t afford.

    I am going to give it a shot. It’s a count road (I think), and I”m going to bust their butts until they brake.

    Watch me.

    : (

  4. teresa says:

    hit a pothole, busted my tire, on south Eades road in Arlington virginia. Im pissed, want to be reimbursed for it. right now!

  5. Kari B. says:

    I hit a pothole on Hwy 99, blew my tire, dented the wheel, completely messed up my struts! The whole thing added up to almost $300! I need to see if I can get reimbursed for any of this.

    Where are my tax dollars going? I am SO pissed!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I was heading north to detroit airport and hit a pot hole in the centerlane doing 70 mph. i did not see the pothole until i was almost on it. i had no time to safely swerve by it. When I hit it i could feel a hard thump twice on the right side of my car. i went on for about a mile and realized my low profile 20s were going flat. I thought it would be one tire but no,.. both the front and back tires were flat and the rims where bent. I was told if I claim them on my insurance it would raise my rates.

  7. Aaron says:

    To improve your chances of getting reimbursed, if possible, get a police report. I had to wait an hour on scene, but was reimbursed $450 without much headache.

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