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What Can You Do If You Hit a Pothole That Damages Your Car?

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Not much, it seems

Ah, spring! The snows are melting! The flowers are blooming! And potholes are yawning wide on the roads, waiting to claim your poor, unsuspecting tires and suspension!

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Why is a Pothole Called a Pothole?

Feed me your rims!

Yes, we are now firmly into pothole season, as winter’s cycles of freezing and thawing have torn away at the road’s surface, leading to a great, hungry hole. So, as you stand looking at your freshly popped tire, you ask yourself “Isn’t it the government’s job to fix potholes? So shouldn’t it pay to fix my burst tire?”

The answers to those questions are “yes” and “not necessarily,” respectively. Generally speaking, getting the government to pay for the pothole damage depends on your location. Some places, like New York or Chicago, have their own claims process, and may offer some compensation under certain circumstances. Other than that, the government in charge of maintaining the road is liable if the road is not kept “reasonably” safe.

That quoted word, “reasonably,” is the apt term, here, because it is usually the death of most claims against the government for potholes, because state laws, generally speaking, grant the government a reasonable amount of time to realize that a pothole is there, and then a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem. So, unless the pothole has been around so long that the government should have noticed it already, whether through someone calling it in, or in a regular road condition survey, or you can show that it did know about it and just didn’t fix it in a reasonable amount of time.

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Some drivers may have some help in paying for pothole damage and not even realize it, though, as according to the Insurance Information Institute (III), drivers with collision coverage are covered for hitting a pothole, just like if they hit a lamp post or guard rail.

On the other hand, the III also points out that collision insurance generally has a deductible, so filing a claim for pothole damage could often be impractical, as the cost of the damage usually falls below that level.

All in all, it seems it pays to leave a little more following distance from the vehicle in front of you, and try to avoid hitting potholes if it is at all possible.

News Sources: Time, Allstate Insurance, Nolo.com, Insurance Information Institute