Who Is Responsible for Pot Holes Causing Vehicular Damage?

Pothole note
The government is tasked with keeping roads clear of debris, free of potholes, and safe to drive on. Yet when cities are in trouble, one budget often compromised is the department of transportation. If your vehicle is damaged because of a pothole in Texas, are you stuck with the tab or should the city cough up repair money?

The Government’s Legal Responsibility

Texas law dictates that its cities are not responsible for damage caused against a vehicle due to street debris or potholes. The city is not liable for the condition of its roads, nor is it likely that filed claims will be met.

Despite this law, there is a formal process on the Texas Department of Transportation’s website. The form reports where the pothole is, and you can request a direct response from the TxDOT. Citizens may make a claim against the city seeking reimbursement. Sometimes the city reimburses drivers, though the chances are extremely slim. Motorists requesting refunds for pothole damage is the number one complaint.

In other words, cities are left up to their own discretion on whether or not to pay damages. While the laws vary from city to city, one trend strikes through all Texas court systems: requesting damages is a lengthy process that almost never bears fruit.

The city of Dallas, for instance, is notorious for only paying out money if the damage includes examples of clear negligence on the part of city employees. If you wish to file a claim for damages in Houston, you have 90 days to do so. The list of facts you must provide in your claim is extensive.

The Two Rules

If you wish to bring a lawsuit against your city for damages, there are generally three important questions that must be answered:

  1. Was the city aware of the pothole or unsafe condition before it damaged your car?
  1. Did the city have enough time to fix/clear/repair the street?
  1. Was the obstruction the only cause of damage to your vehicle?

Most of the time, the city must be aware of an unsafe section of road before it is held liable. This is especially true in Texas. If you are the first to report a pothole, the city is unlikely to pay anything.

Then, the city must have a certain number of business days to determine whether it is liable. This is typically left up to the discretion of the judge, who will often side with the city if the claim is made by a civilian.

Finally, an inspector is often issued to check the car for signs of damage prior to the pothole. If your car is well-worn or suffers any obvious signs of damage, the inspector will likely claim the pothole is not solely responsible for the damage. If you or a loved one have been injured due to a pothole causing a car accident, contact Houston car accident attorney Brian White for legal help.