The snow has melted and warmer temperatures are just around the corner. But the spring thaw, although welcomed, also has a downside — potholes on Michigan roads that can cause damage to your vehicle.
When you hit a nasty pothole while driving, the question becomes: can you recover for any damage to your vehicle?
Potholes On Michigan Roads: The Law
MCL 691.1402 says that governmental agencies with jurisdiction over highways must maintain those highways in reasonable repair, so they’re safe for travel. If there is damage to either a person or personal property, money damages may be recovered from the agency that’s responsible for maintaining that particular highway.
Meanwhile, MCL 691.1403, says that to be held liable, the governmental agency either must know or should have known about the existing highway defect — that is, the pothole — and must have had reasonable time to repair it before the damage occurred. According to the statute, the governmental agency must have known that the highway defect (the pothole) existed for at least 30 days and did nothing to repair it.
Therefore, the person claiming damages must prove the governmental agency knew about the pothole for this 30-day period. And this can be difficult to establish.
Filing A Claim For Michigan Pothole Damage
If your vehicle is damaged by a pothole on a Michigan road, you can file a claim with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) through its pothole reporting procedure.
Note that the pothole being reported must be on a state trunk line or freeway — that is, roads beginning with the letters I, M or US. Damage claims less than $1,000 may be filed with MDOT. If a claim exceeds this amount, it must be filed in the Michigan Court of Claims (not the Small Claims Court).
In deciding whether to pay a claim, MDOT emphasizes that:
- it will only consider awards for costs beyond what is covered by no-fault insurance, and
- the governmental agency must have known about the pothole for 30 days and failed to repair it.
Be forewarned: although MDOT has a procedure for reporting potholes and filing claims, the chances of recovery are slim. Only a handful of pothole damage claims have been paid since 2010. Most have been denied, even on appeal.