A pothole damaged my car while driving in North Carolina. What recourse do I have?


Believe it or not, there is recourse in North Carolina for claiming pothole damages. But it’s about as tricky to win a case as navigating the infrastructural minefield that brought you here in the first place.

Contact your insurance company.
Find out the deductible and potential premium increase you’d incur if you were to submit an insurance claim. If it’s not worth the hike then opt out of submitting an insurance claim altogether. No record will appear on your claims history for simply inquiring so it can’t hurt.

Submit a claim for damages to the North Carolina.
Before submitting a claim for damages, be aware that the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is not liable for damage to tires or suspension systems from road conditions (like potholes). However, damage to steering, wheel rims, alignment, hubcaps, and other parts can be claimed for compensation. In addition, the motorist must show town authorities were aware of the pothole in question and yet did not repair it within a reasonable delay.

Motorists have 15 days after the pothole incident to submit a claim by registered mail to the NCDOT. Authorities are not necessarily going to accept your claim, but it’s certainly within your rights to file one.

To report a claim, use the NCDOT county directory for concerns such as potholes and send an e-mail directly to DOT engineers. Next complete this claim form and submit it to the appropriate county DOT office.

File a lawsuit.
A motorist can sue the town for damage on grounds of carelessness, negligence, or misconduct if he or she can prove, once again, that DOT authorities were aware of the pothole but did not repair it within a reasonable delay.

Motorists have a six-month window to file a lawsuit. The case goes through Small Claims Court if reported damages are less than $5,000 (which is most likely in the case of pothole damage) and no lawyer need be involved.

Burden of proof is on the motorist.
Winning a lawsuit and/or a claim against the North Carolina Department of Transportation for vehicular damage from potholes is no easy feat. As previously mentioned, the state is not liable for tire or suspension system damage so the repairs will have to exclude the latter parts in order for a case to hold up. In addition, the motorist must prove the city was aware of the pothole and neglected to fix it within a reasonable delay.

Present a solid case.
• Take pictures of the pothole.
• Gather witnesses who were aware of the pothole and how long it was in disrepair (e.g., passengers, residents, motorists, local merchants, etc.)
• Have a repair estimate from a recognized garage indicating the damage was on car parts other than tires and/or suspension.
• Present proof of the date the pothole was reported (e.g., email to the town, letter, etc.)

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2 responses to “A pothole damaged my car while driving in North Carolina. What recourse do I have?

  1. I have been down this path. Several barriers being made whole. At the time the pothole blew a front time, caused a rear tire to bulge thereby destroying it, and damaged the car structurally, the NCDOT did not maintain records of reported potholes. The burden of proof was so high it was impossible to prove the State negligent. There were other issues such as the road was a State road maintained by the City of Raleigh and they played ping pong with the issue, and when I went before the Industrial Commission for a hearing. an attorney from the honorable State Attorney General’s, Roy Cooper, office told the hearings officer that the NOCDOT did not have a record of the pothole without bothering to tell the officer that the DOT discarded pothole records once a pothole repaired. Overall, the process was a waste of time and disappointing because my government went to great lengths to shirk its responsibility for not maintaining a major road and had no interest in being fair and reasonable. It was obvious the State was treating the matter as an adversarial matter instead of trying to seek an equitable resolution. I felt deflated afterwards, not so much because of the money but because Roy Cooper’s attorney misrepresented State records and the State’s lack of interest in fairness.

  2. Fred H. Wake IV

    I had no way of knowing how to get in touch with someone other than The Wake County Maintenance Dept . They never said anything about a form to fill out , in fact they never re-responded after I did . I had to find all this out on my own , and this site . Now that I have found it you’re telling me I should have done it within 15 days only ? Ok , so I will take my photos , receipts , and proof and start my lawsuit against Wake County .

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