When you’re driving, there are many things you have to watch out for; slick roads, debris, other drivers, just to name a few. The one danger you may not expect as a driver (or one you do expect but never hope to encounter as a bicyclist) are potholes. If you do encounter one, you never anticipate that it could actually cause damage to your car, or injuries. If it does, what can you do?

Potholes have long been the arch-nemesis of cyclists, but when they’re large enough or deep enough to cause damage to your car, that’s another set of problems. Many drivers may think to themselves that there’s nothing they can do but pay for the damage themselves, but cities have an obligation to motorists to keep the roads safe enough to drive on.

What Should I Do If My Car Was Damaged By a Pothole?

The very first thing you should do is document the damage. If it’s aesthetic, you’ll notice the damage right away. Take pictures of the road if possible, especially the pothole itself. Note how wide and deep it is as accurately as you can. Document the damage to your vehicle, the exact location of the pothole, the name of the road, and talk to any witnesses if applicable.

If the pothole throws off your vehicle’s alignment or damages the undercarriage in any fashion, it may not become apparent for a few days. In this case, if you suspect that a pothole may have caused the damage, return to the scene and do everything described above.

You do want to take your car in to be repaired as soon as you can as well. It’s the same principle as seeking medical attention for an injury as soon as possible after an accident. If you wait a long time to have the damage inspected, then the city could say that it must not have been that bad, or claim that it was something else that caused the problems.

Who Is Responsible For Pothole Damage?

Your tires, the wheel well, even your engine is susceptible to damage from potholes, especially if you were going at a high rate of speed. If your car was damaged and/or you were injured due to a pothole, you may be entitled to compensation from the city.

The first thing you would do is report your damage and the existence of the pothole to the Public Works Department, online or by dialing 311 on your phone. Any other details you feel necessary should be present in the report. Their lawyers will process your claim, which usually takes some time, so it’s important to check back frequently. You can also file a traffic complaint online with the police department.

How Do I Prove the Pothole Caused the Damage?

It can be difficult to prove, but there are steps you can take to legally show that the city is liable for the damage to your car. If you can show that the city and/or state had knowledge of the road condition, and did nothing to correct the situation, it’s very likely you would be compensated for damage.

You can do this by requesting survey records for the road where your accident occurred. Routine survey is required for all roads, and these records are publicly available. It may require a good amount of reading, but look over them to see if that area had been cited for poor condition.

It’s possible to show that the government should have known about the road’s poor condition. You will have to get a bit creative here, but one way you can do this is by interviewing people who live nearby. Those who drive over that road every day are probably well aware of the potholes existence, and may have very well reported it to the city numerous times.

How Can I Be Protected From Pothole Damage?

If roads are unkempt where you live or are in general disarray, purchasing pothole coverage on your insurance could be a good idea. It’s part of collision coverage, which as an optional addition to your usual liability coverage. Whereas liability covers accidents with other vehicles/cyclists/pedestrians, collision covers accidents with objects, such as poles, signs and potholes. Be sure to ask your insurance about collision coverage if you want it included.

Do read the fine print and understand everything your policy covers. If your car was damaged by a pothole, but the damage amounts to less than your deductible, it may not be prudent to file a claim, because your rates may very well increase.

If a pothole caused an accident that injured you or a loved one, consider consulting with a car accident attorney for legal help.