HOUSTON – No matter where you drive, just about every area in Houston has one thing in common... roadways pocked with potholes. If you have hit one, you are not alone. They’re not only ugly, but they can also really damage your vehicle. KPRC 2 Investigator Amy Davis explains what to do to get the city of Houston to pay for your repairs if you hit a pothole and cause damage to your vehicle.
Will the city pay for pothole damage?
The city of Houston will tell you that they don’t pay for damages caused by potholes. What they fail to say is that they may have to pay up if you can prove they knew about a pothole and they failed to fix it in a reasonable time. You just have to take the proper steps first. Our KPRC 2 Investigates team is here to help!
With 16,000 bumpy, lumpy, wavy roadways in Houston, sooner or later you’re bound to hit a pothole. You could pop a tire, bend your wheel or mess up your suspension, steering or alignment. All problems that will leave you with a hefty repair bill.
“The state (or the responsible government entity) can be held liable for something like that if you can show that they knew it was there and did nothing to fix it. But that’s a really tough burden to prove,” said Paul Cannon, Simmons and Fletcher Law Firm.
Houstonpotholes.org has an interactive map of every pothole reported to the city of Houston including the location and when it was repaired. These reports only go back a couple of weeks but the city of Houston’s 311 helpline has the older data if you request it.
Did the city fail to fix a pothole problem?
If your vehicle has damage caused by a pothole, first you need to determine if the pothole is part of a bigger problem on that street. You could ask for every pothole report made to 3-1-1 over a year or two years in the same block to two blocks of the pothole you hit. Did the city fix it? Was it reported so many times the city should have known a more thorough repair was needed? If the answer is yes take pictures of the pothole noting the exact location. Take pictures of your damages and save the receipt from your repairs.
What to do if you hit a pothole in Houston
First file a claim with the city of Houston. (Click on this link to file a claim.) You have to do it within 90 days. Don’t forget to include all of the requested documents and pictures.
“You spend a lot of time doing work and if you’re paying someone to do it, you may pay them more than the damage cost to repair,” explains Cannon.
If the city denies your claim and your damages are significant head to small claims court.
You don’t need an attorney. The filing fee is $104 and you can collect up to $20,000 if you win your case. In many instances, drivers just give up. That includes hundreds of drivers who have been in accidents caused by city of Houston vehicles and employees.
KPRC 2 Investigates is also looking into the system that is sticking drivers with repair bills after accidents that were not their fault.