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How many Michigan pothole claims will the state actually pay?

November 7, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan Auto Law attorney Todd Berg gives autoinsurancecenter.com insight on what drivers can do if they’ve filed Michigan pothole claims for vehicle damage

Filing Michigan pothole claims: Will the state pay?

[UPDATE (February 23, 2018): To learn the latest information about how Michigan drivers can try to get the state, the county, the city and/or their car insurance companies to pay Michigan pothole claims for vehicle damage repairs, please check out our blog post, “How Michigan drivers can fix their pothole tire damage.”]

For all of you Game of Throne fans, “Winter is coming.”

Unfortunately, and unlike my favorite show on television, we’re all dreading it – and the potholes that come with it.
The pothole headaches and horror stories only seem to get worse as each of the last couple winters has come and gone.

The good news about Michigan pothole claims

We’ve all been touched by this, either personally or we know someone who has had flat tires or car damage caused by potholes.

The good news about vehicle damage from Michigan potholes is that the state and some counties will actually reimburse a driver under certain circumstances. As I said in my prior blog post about making a claim for your pothole damage in Michigan, a can indeed sue the city or county for pothole damage repair costs.

MDOT has a claim process for drivers with vehicle damage from a pothole that is on a “state trunk line.” A state trunk line is highway with an M, I or U.S. prefix, like I-696 or M-10, for instance. MDOT only has jurisdiction over state trunk lines.

Other roads are under the jurisdiction of counties, cities or villages, and as such, you will likely be out of pocket.

How likely is it the state will pay Michigan pothole claims for vehicle damage?

But how likely is it for the state of Michigan to actually approve an award for pothole damages?

As Autumn Cafiero Giusti of autoinsurancecenter.com reported in her recent story, “Cities, states will pay pothole claims — for a lucky few.”

Guisti interviewed our very own attorney Todd Berg of Michigan Auto Law. The issue was what a driver can do if his or her insurance company won’t pay for car damage from potholes and has made a claim with the state —  to avoid footing the bill (remember, your car insurance company will likely treat pothole damage as a collision claim, but that’s smaller claim, which means your rates will likely spike).

As reported in the story, MDOT payouts have been few and far between: There were 12 in 2013, six in 2012 and nine in 2011.

The state will consider an award only for the damages beyond what has been paid by your insurance company, and the state must have been aware of the pothole for 30 days without repairing it in order for a claim to be eligible for reimbursement.

Said Todd, “Showing me there’s a pothole probably isn’t that difficult. But showing me that there was one there for 30 days and the state didn’t know about it, that’s tough.”

It’s so tough that on MDOT’s claims page advises motorists that the majority of claims are denied under governmental immunity laws, he added.

Aside from filing Michigan pothole claims, what can a driver do when there’s pothole damage?

Motorists can take steps to protect themselves and others against pothole damage, but they need to do it before the damage is done, Todd said:

If there’s a pothole you have to swerve to miss every day on the way to work, call it in right away to ensure that the state has been warned.

Report every pothole you see. Because the more people go out and report the potholes they encounter on the roadway, the better the chances are that when someone comes in and files a claim, the governmental entity already received notice about the pothole.”

And even if you’re unsure of whether you will be compensated, you won’t know for sure until you file a claim with the state.

The claim form and instructions are available on the MDOT website page, “How do I file a claim for damages to my vehicle cause by a pothole?”

Claims for less than $1,000 must be submitted to the MDOT regional office or transportation service center that covers the county where the incident occurred. If a claim is for $1,000 or more, it must be filed with the Michigan Court of Claims in Lansing.

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