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Filing A Pothole Damage Claim

Last 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 [3], a national transportation research group, “deteriorating urban pavement conditions cost the average driver more than $400 annually [4].” 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 [5])