How to Get Reimbursed for Damages Caused by a Pothole (Maybe)

December 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm in Driving, LA

Last night, KTLA had a news story about potholes.  Councilman Eric Garcetti has resolved to fix as many potholes in what is called Operation Pothole of 2011 (like any unresolved war, this is not the first time extra troops are being deployed.  In 2005′s Operation Pothole, 80,172 potholes were filled during a 14-week period (curious about that number?  So was LA Observed.)).  In anticipation of Op. Pothole 2011, the city is asking you, dear residents, to call 311 with information about your unfriendly neighborhood pothole.  You also can submit the information online here.  On January 8 and 9, the city will devote a few street maintenance crews to fill ‘em up.

Good, yes, but that’s not what piqued my interest.  According to KTLA, if your vehicle sustains damage as result of hitting a pothole, you can file a claim with the city to get the cost of that repair reimbursed.  Sounds too good to be true, I thought, and it sort of is: because the city is responsible to maintaining our roads, it can be held liable for damages to personal property due to things like potholes.  However, as the Daily News pointed out earlier this year, the city must have been aware of the pothole and be given a reasonable amount of time to fix it.  The city’s Resurfacing and Reconstruction Division states that it typically responds to pothole repair requests with 24 hours; if there was a recent rainstorm (i.e., Rainpocalypse 2010), it may take longer for them to respond to the repair request.  So, if the city was not aware/claims it was not aware of the pothole before you hit it, you and your rims are SOL.

So, how do you know if the city was aware of the pothole problem and didn’t fix it within a reasonable amount of time?  No one I talked to seemed to know the answer to that question.  If I were your lawyer (and I’m not), I would suggest that you try to get a log of repair requests via a subpoena or a Public Records Act request.  File a claim with the city first, though; if they deny it, give it your all at small claims.  The claim form is here (links to a PDF).  Operation Pothole, here you come.

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