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Know the Law – Paying for pothole damage

Posted at 7:53 AM, Mar 18, 2017


While we’re all thrilled that spring has finally arrived, there is one part of the spring thaw that Michigan drivers do not enjoy: potholes.

If you hit a pothole while driving, is the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) liable for any damage to your vehicle? The answer is “maybe.”

Why the uncertainty? Because there are some hurdles that must first be overcome to recover payment for pothole damage.

It is important to note that Michigan law says the government agency responsible for maintaining the road where the pothole is located 1) must have known the pothole existed and 2) must have had reasonable time to fix it. This reasonable period of time is 30 days. In other words, to have a valid claim for damages, the government agency must have known about the pothole for at least a month and must have done nothing to repair it. (To report a pothole, you can call 888-296-4546 or use MDOT’s online pothole reporting form.)

Another requirement to file a pothole damage claim is that the pothole must be on a state road – that is, those with signs that begin with M, I or US.

How do you file a pothole damage claim? You use MDOT’s online damage claim form. When filing a claim, you should attach copies of all your car repair estimates/bills that you paid out of pocket. Once MDOT receives your claim, it will consider a monetary award for only that amount not paid by your auto insurance company.

Also take note: MDOT only accepts and considers claims that are $1,000 or less. If your claim is greater than $1,000, you must file a lawsuit against MDOT in the Michigan Court of Claims.

Unfortunately, most pothole damage claims submitted to MDOT are denied. Only a handful have been paid since 2010, and most have also been rejected on appeal.