Are you stuck in a pothole nightmare? How about we just dub 2014 the year of the “Pothole” here in Michigan? This has been one of the harshest winters on record across the country and Michigan’s roads are making the moon’s surface look smooth. Pot holes can cause all kinds of damage to your vehicle. Bent rims, popped tires, misalignment, and bad shocks can all be blamed on our treacherous road conditions. So, who foots the bill for these damages?
The State of Michigan
To my surprise, the state of Michigan, MDOT, does offer some coverage for damage caused by potholes, but you have to meet very specific requirements. They only cover potholes on a trunkline, which refers to freeways which begin with an I, M, or US. You have to prove the state knew of the pothole for more than thirty days before your damage occurred.
So what exactly is covered? If you are able to prove the state knew of the pothole for more than thirty days prior to your damage, then they will reimburse you for the damages above and beyond what your car insurance will pay. Yes, that means you have to file a claim on your auto insurance first or prove you do not carry collision coverage. Essentially, the state will cover your deductible if you have collision coverage.
Other points of interest when filing a claim with the state include if the amount you are submitting is over $1000 you have to file it with Michigan Court of Claims. Go to www.michigan.gov/mdot to download the form and get further instructions about filing a pothole damage claim.
Honestly, only a handful of people actually get reimbursed through the state. I wouldn’t recommend filing a claim with them due to the hassle alone. Potholes pop up quickly. You probably didn’t know about the pothole before you slammed into it. And if you are not the one who reported the pothole thirty days or more ahead of time, then you are going to have a very difficult time proving the state knew about it.
File a Collision Claim on Your Car Insurance
That is right, collision. Many people have the misconception that comprehensive coverage will cover a pothole damage claim. Unfortunately it is considered a collision when you hit a pothole, the same as if you hit a guard rail or mailbox. Not only is it a collision claim, but also an at-fault claim. Meaning, you will have to pay your deductible and are subject to a surcharge when your car insurance policy renews.
The only way around a deductible and surcharge are if you purchased vanishing deductible coverage and accident forgiveness. Not all policies offer these options, but they sure would come in handy right about now. A lot of the time the damage may not exceed your deductible. Lots of people carry $500 or even $1000 deductibles to reduce the overall cost of Michigan’s expensive car insurance policies. Filing a claim may not be an option.
Please keep in mind, all insurance carriers handle pothole claims the same. They all consider them collisions. So there really isn’t a need to get upset with your insurance carrier. You can expect the same results even if you switch carriers.
You Pay Out of Pocket
Right about now you are probably getting annoyed with me because in the title I said “Get Help with Insurance”. Well I will admit I did lead you on a little. Filing a claim on your car insurance is an option, and it might be a good one if you really cannot afford the full cost of your pothole damage repair. But, most likely you are going to be better off paying for this one out of pocket. As frustrating as it maybe, even if the damage is a little over your deductible, paying for the damage yourself might save you overall because of the potential surcharge. At-fault claim surcharges can last three years and the amount can vary.
We are all going to have to be patient this year as the road crews have a whole lot of work to do. Be mindful of potholes in your area and try to avoid them if at all possible. More potholes will surely be popping up as the roads continue to thaw. Hopefully if you do sustain damage from a pothole, your car will only require an alignment. The average cost of an alignment ranges from $50 to $100 depending on the size of your vehicle. Please remain vigilant and be careful out there!