Can You Make a Pothole Damage Claim in Michigan?
It’s no secret that Michigan’s roads are in pretty rough shape. Throughout the winter and spring seasons, it’s not at all uncommon to encounter a few potholes as you’re out driving. In a state like Michigan, where the weather has a reputation for being bitterly cold one day and springlike the next, it’s understandable why potholes are so common. But if it seems like the winter of 2018 has been exceptionally bad for our roads, it’s not just your imagination. According to the Detroit Free Press, the Michigan Department of Transportation had received 505 calls about potholes as of February 19, 2018, whereas they had received just 299 by April 2017.
Lately, there have been numerous reports about potholes around Metro Detroit (and elsewhere in Michigan) large enough to cause damage to cars, leaving a lot of people wondering whether or not they can file a lawsuit or make a claim against the government over car damage caused by bad road conditions. The simple answer is yes, but getting your claim approved isn’t so easy. The majority of claims filed with the Michigan government are denied. During 2017, 267 claims for pothole damage were made with the State of Michigan and only nine of them were approved.
In the state of Michigan, whether or not you can collect damages for pothole damage generally hinges on whether or not the agency in charge of maintaining the road had prior knowledge of the pothole existing (or at least had a fair amount of time to become aware that it existed) and that they had a reasonable amount of time to fix the damage. So, for example, if you get into a car accident or damage your car because of a pothole that had just formed very recently, the agency in charge of the road would likely try to say that they didn’t know it was there or that they hadn’t had time to fix it. But if the pothole had been been around for 30 days or longer, you’d be more likely to have a successful claim.
If your car was damaged by a pothole and you’d like to try making a claim, the first thing you’ll need to do is figure out who to file your claim with. Some roads are maintained by MDOT, while others are maintained by the county or city. If your car was damaged on a state road (one that begins with US-, I-, or M-), you’ll need to make your claim with the MDOT office in the region where the accident occurred. If your damage exceeds $1,000, you will need to file a lawsuit against MDOT. For damage that occurs on other roads, you will likely need to make your claim through the county. Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties have their claim forms available online. The city of Detroit has an online form available for damage caused by potholes within the city limits. If your pothole accident resulted in injury, be sure to contact a car accident lawyer right away.
The exact information you’ll need to provide to make your claim will depend on the agency you need to report it to. But if you’re planning to make a claim for your damages, generally speaking, there are a few things that are good to do. Try to record as many details about the accident as possible. Be sure to note exactly where the pothole is located, what time you hit the pothole, and as many other details about it as you can, such as approximately how deep or how wide the pothole is. Taking pictures of the pothole, along with the damage to your vehicle, may be helpful. You may be asked to supply copies of written estimates for the damage and receipts for damages not covered by your auto insurance, so be sure to hold onto those.