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I was watching the local news last night and saw a strange story about a traveler from Canada who hit a pothole on the highway. She’s asking the state of New Mexico to pay for four new tires on her BMW. At first I thought, “She can’t do that.” But, the state agreed to pay $1,700 toward the purchase of new tires from her pothole damage claim.

That made me wonder: can I file a claim with the city or the state if a pothole damages my car? It turns out, you can.Pothole claims are common and many cities and states make it easy to file claims if a road caused damage.

You can file a claim with the city and make a pothole damage claim

Let’s say you were driving along and you hit a pothole and it flattened your tire, or worse, your bumper or oil pan under the car. Yes, that would certainly ruin your commute and you’ll be staring down an expensive repair. But, there may be hope because the city or the state, or whomever maintains that road may be at fault for the hole. If you can prove that the city or state were negligent, and breached their duty, you may be able to file a claim.

The city must be aware of the pothole before you hit it

two car rims damaged by potholes
Your car’s rims, like these, can be damaged by a pothole | Astrid Riecken via Getty Images

Many cities, such as Memphis, Tennessee, will take responsibility for pothole damage to your car. But, the city has to have had a notice that the pothole was in the street prior to the damage. So, you can’t hit the hole, then tell the city and expect to get paid. Somebody has to have told the city first, and in a reasonable time to repair it, which Memphis says is five days. Also, Memphis and other cities won’t pay a claim if the damage was done to cars state-maintained road to cars, even if it was within the city limits.

Here, according to the news report on KOB TV, though the state agreed to pay for the tires, it didn’t pay the whole cost of replacing all four tires. But, that’s better than nothing.

Different cities and states have different procedures for filing claims

A large pothole filled with mud in San Francisco
A car drives past a pothole in San Francisco | Ray Chavez via Getty Images

These types of incidents are so common, the city of Dallas has an online form you can fill out and a two phone numbers you can call. In Maine, however, there are more restrictions and Mainers can only file a claim under some specific conditions, such as if road construction caused the damage. If you think you may have to file a claim, there are several ways to file but make sure you know who maintains the road you were on.

Your own insurance company will also cover damage

Most states require liability coverage on your car, which means that your company will pay for damages to another car. But, if you get collision or full-coverage insurance it will cover damage to your vehicle, no matter who is at fault, and even if you hit a pothole. Of course you’ll have to pay your deductible, but that is usually far less than the cost of replacing a bumper or a bent rim if you hit a pothole.  


How to Avoid Hitting Potholes and Keep Your Tires and Wheels Protected