When Potholes damage your car

Under state law, a state or local governments may be liable for pothole damages if the government entity “negligently created or maintained a condition on a highway.”

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One only has to live in Nashville for a short time before they discover the vast number of potholes covering the roads. If you have a daily route, you learn where the big ones are and avoid them at all costsBut in truth, there is no way to completely avoid running over every potholeUnfortunately, potholes can cause all kinds of damage to your car like a blown tire, bent wheel, broken exhaust, steering misalignment, or even damage to your engine.   

If you hit a pothole

So, what can be done if you hit a pothole and it causes damage to your vehicle?  There is good news and there is bad news.

The good news is that the State of Tennessee and Metro Nashville may cover your damages…. if you can meet the requirements.

The bad news is that, in reality, the State and Metro choose to cover only a small percentage of claims. For example, between 2009 and 2016, the state of Tennessee only paid for four percent (4%) of the claims submitted. 

Must the government pay for the damage?

Under state law, the state or local governments may be liable for pothole damages if the State or Metro “negligently created or maintained a condition on a highway.”  To prove negligence, it must be shown: 

  • that the state or city was notified of the pothole hazard and 
  • the state failed to repair it in a timely manner.  

While you may be able to show the government entity had knowledge, you must also show it did not repair the pothole in a timely manner. Coming up with evidence can be difficult. Additionally, the city probably has an entirely different opinion on what “timely manner” means than you. 

Presenting your case

First, remember to document everything. Take good pictures of the pothole, the damage to your car, and note where the pothole was located. 

Second, you will need two repair estimates from two different companies. This can be a daunting task, but it is necessary if you wish to seek compensation from the state of Tennessee or Metro Nashville. 

 Where to submit a claim? 

The location of the pothole matters when determining where to submit your claim. If the pothole is on a state road then the claim must be filed through the state treasury department’s Division of Claims Administration.

If the pothole is on one of Nashville’s roads, then the claim must be submitted to the Nashville Department of Law Claims Division.

Though the possibility of being reimbursed is slim, it may be worth the time to go through the process if you think you have a good case. Who knows, maybe you will be one of the lucky four percent who prevails. 

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