Municipalities Rarely Pay for Pothole Damage

Buffalo, NY - There is no shortage of potholes on our roads, so if your car is damaged by one, who pays for it?

We spoke with a personal injury attorney who says your chances of getting money back from a municipality are pretty low.

For example, Joseph Morath says the City of Buffalo requires prior written notice of the condition of the road. In order for you to go after Buffalo for money, you have to show that prior written notice of the pothole was given and that there was sufficient time for the city crews to fix it.

Specifically, that letter has to be addressed to the City Clerk. Morath says most municipalities in our area have similar rules.

"Unfortunately, as far as getting your car fixed, or if somebody trips and sprains their ankle, it's a question of going to the City Clerk's office, doing a FOI request, or some other type of investigation, to determine before this happened did somebody notify the City of the existence of this pothole in writing to the City Clerk and it's that specific. And unfortunately, if you don't have that letter to the Clerk, you're going to have a very difficult time recouping your money at least from the municipality," says Morath.

"How can you possibly let the city or town know about every pothole that's out there?" asked Channel 2's Kelly Dudzik.

"Potholes pose a very interesting scenario. It's a little different than let's say you slip and trip on a sidewalk in the City of Buffalo. It's out in front of your house, you say this sidewalk is dangerous, you write a letter to the city, to the city clerk, my sidewalk is dangerous, there's their notice that if somebody is injured on that sidewalk, the city can in that circumstance be held responsible. Potholes are very difficult, especially because this time of year, potholes pop up everywhere. The freeze, the thaw, there's new potholes every day. So holding the city liable for a pothole, would be a very, very factually specific case and probably very rare," says Morath.

We also asked Morath if you could send an email to the Clerk instead. He says that has been brought up in court a few times. He thinks if your email is addressed to the City Clerk, you have a good argument. But it is not a guarantee to be reimbursed for the damage done to your car.


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