Did a Pothole Damage Your Car? Here’s What You Need to Know
May 13, 2019
Most of us welcome the first signs of spring—including robins, flowers and warmer weather. However, there is one sign of the season we would rather avoid: potholes.
Pothole damage can be serious and expensive. The Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) estimates the average Michigan driver pays more than $300 a year for road-caused vehicle damage, primarily from potholes.
Last year, motorists reported more than twice as many potholes than in previous years. And, after last winter’s volatile temperatures, we will likely encounter even more this year.
Do you have any recourse when your tires (or other parts of your vehicle) are destroyed by a pothole? Here are some of the options for Michigan motorists.
Who Pays for Pothole Damage?
If you have collision coverage in addition to your basic no-fault policy, your vehicle may be covered for pothole damage. If not, your only recourse is filing a claim with the state, county or other municipality in charge of the road where the damage occurred.
Unfortunately, municipalities are protected by governmental immunity laws. In addition, Michigan law says a government entity is liable only if it knew or “should have known” about a pothole and had a “reasonable” amount of time to repair it. Therefore, most people who file claims for pothole-related damage do not receive reimbursement.
How to File a Claim for Pothole Damage
Here are some steps to take if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole:
- Find out whether the road is managed by the state, city or county.
- To submit a claim through MDOT, the road must be a state trunkline. This includes only those roads beginning with the letters M, I or US.
- If your car was damaged on a state road, and repair costs are under $1,000, submit a claim through the MDOT website. For repair costs $1,000 or higher, your only recourse is to file a lawsuit through a private attorney.
- If the damage occurred on a city, township or county road, call the office or visit the website of the appropriate municipality.
- If you’re unsure, contact your local MDOT regional office or county road commission.
- Take photos of the pothole as well as any damage it caused to your vehicle.
- Save receipts and other documentation relating to the damage and repair costs.
- If there are witnesses, ask for their names and phone numbers in case you need to contact them later.
- To help prove whether the municipality was aware of the pothole, you can obtain records of reports and maintenance by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.
- Report every pothole you encounter, even if you don’t plan to file a claim.
Michigan auto law is complicated, but finding the right lawyer is simple.
Call 1-800-CALL-SAM today for a free, no-obligation consultation.