Having damage done to your car, especially when it’s not your fault, can not only be frustrating but time-consuming and expensive. At least when an incident such as a tree falling on your car or someone rear-ending you happens, you can contact your insurance company and it will likely cover the damage.
However, when there's damage from the road itself (potholes; construction zones; roads that are icy, snowy or wet, etc.), it's much harder to prove it wasn’t your fault or was general wear and tear or negligence, which makes it much more difficult to get your costs covered.
While it may be more challenging to recover costs for damage incurred to your car from bad roads than from a standard accident, there are still options to get help.
Step 1: Decide if you have a valid case
According to Nolo, you’ll need to prove negligence to get money from the government. If a road was icy for days or potholes were left unfixed for months, these are grounds for negligence.
If something fell on the road an hour before your incident, however, the situation would not be considered negligence and the government will most likely not give money for your claim.
Step 2: Find out if the road is government property
In most cases, the city, county or state responsible for maintaining the road where you had your accident will be charged, but in some cases an entity other than the government is responsible. Nolo notes you can generally call the commissioner’s office to find the information you’ll need.
This is a crucial step because your claim will be dismissed if you don’t determine the governing body responsible for that road.
Make sure to file a police report as well. Many cities allow you to do this online. A police report officially records the incident time and date for claim matters later down the road.
Step 3: Document the accident
Make sure to take photos of the road and car. Yourmechanic.com recommends you take photos from different angles to make sure you’re being as thorough as possible with your documentation. Write down the time and date of the accident and note if there was anyone watching who can act as a witness. Get their name and phone number and ask if you can call them if someone other than you needs to confirm the damage.
You can also contact people who frequently drive on the road to ask if they’ve had damage to their cars or noticed the issues with the road to help support you in proving the government’s negligence.
Step 4: File your claim as quickly as possibleComment on this story
Yourmechanic.com also states you only have a set amount of time to file your claim before your case becomes invalid and you can no longer file (often these deadlines occur within 30 days of the accident). The deadline varies by state, so make sure to check with your local governing body.
Once you’ve filed, you should hear back from the county fairly quickly to let you know if your claim has been granted. If so, you’ll receive a check.
If your claim gets denied and you’d like further assistance, contact a lawyer, such as Robert J. Debry, who specializes in personal injury and can help with your case.