The state of California might reimburse you up to $10,000 in vehicle damages caused by potholes if you file within six months of the incident and successfully prove that CalTrans or its contractor knew or should have known about the pothole at the time of damage. To file a claim in California, you can check out the damage claim section of the California Department of Transportation website here. Many other states offer similar pothole damage reimbursement programs too — Michiganders are potentially eligible for up to $1,000, and New Yorkers are potentially eligible for up to $5,000 — so check your state’s website to see if you are eligible to file for reimbursement.
The most reliable way to prove that your state knew or should have known about the pothole before your damaging incident is by pulling public records to determine if any prior complaints were filed for the roadway that damaged your vehicle. It is also important to note that in California you must know the county in which your incident occurred and file a claim with that county’s district claims office.
In order to increase the likelihood of pothole damage claim reimbursement, governments usually need to have received prior information about said pothole, so if you notice a pothole in your area, make sure to report it. You might end up helping someone get reimbursed for their pothole damage, or you might end up helping yourself get reimbursed if you hit a remaining pothole that you previously reported. The Los Angeles Times reported,
The law provides two ways to do this. One is to demonstrate that the government had been told about the pothole or had spotted it during an inspection, Patatanyan said. The other tactic, called “constructive notice,” is to establish that the government would have learned about the pothole if it had a reasonable inspection routine.
Finding out whether the government knew about a pothole typically requires a public records request to pull all complaints received about that particular roadway, along with accident reports and inspection records. Los Angeles gets a lot of complaints — the Department of Public Works said it received 5,869 requests for pothole repairs in the first three weeks of March (2023) alone. The department said its crews had fixed almost 4,000 of them, leaving about 30% unfilled at that point. And that’s just for the latest complaints.
If you have an unlucky day and end up hitting a pothole that damages your vehicle, make sure to document the damage in as much detail as possible. Take photos of the damage done to your vehicle, keep receipts for any necessary repairs, and take photos of the pothole or other road hazard that damaged your vehicle.
Additionally, if your vehicle is damaged due to a pothole, please have it inspected or repaired as soon as possible. Filing a claim in your state or jurisdiction can take a long time before any reimbursement is provided, so don’t wait to get your vehicle repaired. If you have full coverage insurance on your vehicle, you may also be able to file a claim with your insurance to cover the repairs, however doing so may cause your rates to increase.
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