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Tis the Season...of Potholes


Potholes are road imperfections that occur when soil compacted beneath pavement becomes weakened or displaced. Roads are particularly likely to form potholes in winter and spring months, when ice and lots of running water disrupt the base layers under the pavement. As cars drive over these weak spots, the pavement deforms, cracks, and chips away, leaving a hole in the road surface. Potholes start small, but grow as traffic hits them, potentially becoming deep or large enough to damage a car.

Potholes are not only a problem in states that get cold, snowy winters, however. Even in sunny climates like California and Arizona, over 50% of roads are rated as being in poor condition and are often riddled with potholes. Feeling the jolt from hitting a pothole - and the uneasiness of facing an expensive repair - is something drivers everywhere have to deal with.


Hitting a pothole can damage a car in many ways, sometimes ways that are unseen. The damage to a vehicle depends on the depth of the pothole and the speed at which it is hit. Obviously, a vehicle’s tires are the first part of a car to suffer from contact with a pothole, but the wheel rim and steering alignment can be harmed by the average pothole, too.

Hitting that once-a-season crater can knock out your suspension and do damage to a vehicle’s exhaust system, depending on how low your car sits. This kind of vehicle damage is hard to spot, and is precisely why it is a good idea to take your car to a professional if you have hit a large pothole.


Theoretically, drivers can file claims for reimbursement with the governmental entity responsible for maintaining the road on which their vehicles are damaged due to potholes or other road defects. However, cities and counties rarely pay these claims: a 2014 survey conducted by TIME magazine found rejection rates of claims hovering in the 95% range. Even when a claim was compensated, it was rarely covered in full. Still, if a city/county has notice of the pothole or bad road condition that caused the damage, and if the claim and its repair are well-documented, then the claim for reimbursement may be successful and even partial payment may be worth the time.

A claim for reimbursement for damage due to a pothole could also be filed under a driver’s car insurance policy. A pothole damage claim is considered a single car accident, which is filed as an at-fault accident claim by your insurance carrier. Because hitting a pothole is considered a collision, your collision deductible will apply, and your rates could go up at your next renewal due to filing an at-fault claim. Therefore, you may only want to file a claim for reimbursement with your car insurance policy if you have significant damage to your vehicle.

So, when you inevitably hit that pothole, here's what you need to do:

  1. Check for damage. Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so and check for any obvious damage to your wheels and tires. If it is a large pothole, take your vehicle to a professional to check for damage you may not be able to see;
  2. Write down the location of the pothole/road defect, and if you can, take pictures of the pothole or road defect that caused the damage to your vehicle (on your phone, e.g.);
  3. Report the pothole to the governmental agency/authority responsible for the road;
  4. Repair your car and document the cost of the repair; if you have extensive damage and plan to file with insurance, wait to repair your car until after filing your claim under your policy;
  5. Contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm to assist you in filing your claim for reimbursement with the government.


If you or someone you know has suffered vehicle damage or personal injury from hitting a pothole or other road defect, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.

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Thomas Law Firm
Located at 945 East Paces Ferry Road, Resurgens Plaza, GA 30326.

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