With the kind of temperature swings we’ve had over the last couple of weeks — and with more predicted to follow — we should all be alert to a lot extra potholes that thrive in these kinds of dramatic freeze-thaw conditions.
It’s likely that some drivers may hit a few and if they do we often get asked about whether the City would cover their tire or rim damage.
The City uses a 3rd party insurance agency to investigate claims, including potholes, and we’re happy to submit claims to the agency but generally speaking insurance laws don’t hold cities responsible for pothole damage unless it’s a clear case of negligence.
The definition of “negligence” can vary but for conversation purposes it seems to mean cases where a city has known about a pothole that is particularly deep, has received multiple complaints on it, and the weather has warmed up enough over an extended period of time but no repairs were made to that pothole or any other potholes (i.e., no demonstrated progress has been made).
I can’t think of a pothole situation in recent memory that met all of those conditions which is why the insurance agency rarely supports pothole damage claims.
I know that’s frustrating for residents to hear, and I still encourage people to submit the details of the claim, but I’m also cautious about building expectations that any sort of payout is likely at the conclusion of the insurance investigation.
Below is an example of a response to a resident with a pothole claim from this weekend for your information.
“I wanted to let you know that the City Clerk received your email and sent it to the staff that handles street repairs and insurance claim requests.
Sandy Lance in the City’s Law Department will handle submitting your damage claim through the City’s insurance agency. She may be contacting you if she needs any further information regarding the incident.
We’ll see what the insurance company says but Mrs. Lance noted that pothole damage is usually not covered since they are a consequence of winter’s freeze and thaw cycle rather than negligence by the City.
Freezing and thawing is an act of nature that as you discovered can still cause damage but the insurance laws generally tend to not hold cities responsible for acts of nature, particularly ones like potholes that the insurance agency looks to see if they could have been avoided by drivers.
Unfortunately as you pointed out in your email, potholes can be hard to see and this time of year potholes can literally appear overnight, taking unsuspecting drivers by surprise, so I realize that avoiding potholes as a driver is not as easy as it sounds — as a matter of fact I need to have my car’s front end realigned from some hard hits of my own this winter.
Last week’s dramatic temperature change is the worst possible conditions for potholes and with another swing predicted for next weekend we’re likely to see even more potholes emerge. Until the weather stabilizes there’s not a lot our street crews can do to repair the potholes. They can try to drop in some cold mix asphalt but with traffic as busy as it is on N. Mantua Street it is not going to last long in the hole.
I regret the damage and inconvenience and Sandy will do her best to get the insurance agency’s consideration.