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Pothole Problems: How Do I Claim Damage from a Pothole?

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Potholes are everywhere. On the city streets, freeways, even backroads – there is little you can do as a driver to avoid them. Potholes of virtually any size can cause severe damages to vehicles passing by, especially if driving at high speeds. Even drivers who attempt to avoid potholes by swerving around them are in danger of side-swiping another vehicle as they try to protect their own. If your vehicle has been damaged by a pothole, or you have sustained injuries due to such an incident, an experienced accident attorney can help you to collect compensation from the city or state.

What to Do If You Have Sustained Injuries or Damages from a Pothole

If you have run into a pothole and incurred damages amount to a sum less than $10,000, you are legally allowed to file a claim with the state transportation department. (To obtain the estimate of repairs, discuss the incident and damages with a licensed mechanic before filing.) If you are driving in California, for example, you can file a claim with the California Department of Transportation, also known as Caltrans. The process is relatively simple and can be initiated by filling out a form that is only one page in length.

Although this option is available to you, you must realize that only a very small amount of pothole collisions – 10% - qualify for reimbursement. As long as you provide as much detail as possible, however, and make it abundantly clear that the pothole was the direct cause of damages to your vehicle by thoroughly filling out the form and providing additional documentation if necessary. If your damages amount to $10,000 or more, you must take great care in this stage to ensure you receive the necessary compensation.

Before you go to fill out your claim with your state transportation department, record as much information about the incident as you possibly can. Do not stop in the middle of the road – pull over instead so that you can safely record the environmental conditions at the time of the incident, along with taking photos of the pothole and your vehicle.

Note that even if your vehicle is not severely damaged, you can still file a claim, as it is your state transportation department’s responsibility to maintain the roads. This will serve to alert the appropriate authorities to the location of the pothole so that it is taken care of before anyone else experiences a similar accident.

Filing a Claim vs. Filing a Lawsuit

This step is a bit tricky since insurers will most likely treat incidents involving potholes as single-car at-fault collisions. Unfortunately, this may lead to insurance premium increases, because you will be assigned fault for hitting the pothole. Due to this risk, it may be best for you to file a lawsuit against the state or local government instead.

To do this, you will need the assistance of an experienced attorney. Lawsuits filed against governmental authorities are typically subject to stricter rules, tighter deadlines, and may be generally more complex to navigate. For your best chance at receiving compensation, hire an accident attorney. They will help you to navigate the process of suing your local government for any damages or injuries sustained from a collision with a pothole and guarantee better results than if you were to file on your own.

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