How often does the city pay drivers for pothole damage?

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid pesky potholes. They can leave your car with hundreds of dollars worth of damage.

The city of Memphis says sometimes it will pay for the repairs, but how often does that really happen?

Potholes seem to plague the pavement in every part of city, and they are serious road hazards.

“They’re really bad. They’re really bad,” said driver Jade Xu.

You dodge, but sometimes you can’t miss.

“I’ve hit many before,” said one driver, who calls herself Justice. “Ruined two rims, two tires and ripped off my muffler. Messed up my undercarriage.”

She said she paid for it — literally. She said the biggest bill was $1,200, she said, and she didn’t even try filing a claim with the city.

You’ll understand her defeat when you see the data we uncovered. More than 1,300 claims were filed with the city of Memphis between January 2018 and October 2019.

Drivers had requested the city pay for their car’s damage from a pothole, but the city denied most of those claims. Only 101 drivers got money back. That’s about 8 percent of the claims.

We asked city officials for an on-camera interview, but they refused.

They did give us a lengthy statement. They say state law does not make them automatically responsible if you hit a pothole on their road.

Officials said they will deny your claim if the pothole wasn’t reported before you hit it, or they didn’t have a reasonable amount of time, usually five days, to patch it.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

“We’ve had three people just this week that hit potholes,” said Pat Williams, who works at Barton’s Car Care in Midtown, as he pointed to damage on a tire.

Williams said he sees the most pothole damage in late winter, when temperatures fluctuate and it rains, causing the pavement to weaken. Damage can range from a $100 to more than $1,000.

Looking at the 101 claims the city approved, most averaged a couple hundred bucks, and all together they totaled $41,000.

That doesn’t include pothole damage from major roads like Poplar, Lamar and Union. Those are state roads, and since 2018, the Tennessee Department of Transportation maintains them.

That means if you hit a pothole on those roads, you file a claim with the state.

WREG found out your chances of getting any money back from the state still aren’t good. In 2018, 92 claims were filed and 292 in 2019. Not one was approved.

The state sent us a statement: “The statute requires that in order for the state to approve a claim and pay for damages, the damage must have occurred on a state-maintained road, not on a road maintained by city, county or other entity, and the state must have been aware of the specific problem area, and been given a reasonable amount of time to repair it. The Tennessee Treasury Division of Claims and Risk Management pays claims if the individual filing can prove negligence on behalf of the state.”

The city and state agree the potholes need to be fixed. The city says it’s equipped crews with new tablets and methods, and said last month, they filled 90% of reported potholes within 5 days.

But drivers say it still feels as if as one is patched, another pops up.

“I guess you do your best. Sometimes you drive over them,” said Xu.

Filing a pothole claim

If you want to file a claim with the city: https://memphistn.gov/government/law/city_claims

If you want to file a claim with the state: https://www.tn.gov/tdot/transportation-legal/claims.html

If you hit a pothole on these Mid-South roads, file your claim with the state:

·         Bill Morris Parkway (TN 385)

·         Covington Pike (TN 204)

·         Danny Thomas Boulevard/Thomas Street (TN 3)

·         Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard east of Second (TN 278)

·         East Parkway/part of Airways Boulevard (TN 277)

·         E.H. Crump Boulevard (TN 1/4)

·         Elvis Presley Boulevard/Bellevue Boulevard south of Union (TN 3)

·         Germantown Parkway (TN 177)

·         Getwell Road/New Getwell Road south of I-240 (TN 176)

·         Jackson Avenue (TN 14)

·         Lamar Avenue (TN 4)

·         North Parkway/A.W. Willis Avenue east of Second (TN 1)

·         Poplar Avenue east of East Parkway (TN 57)

·         Second Street south of Chelsea Avenue (TN 14)

·         Shelby Drive east of Third Street (TN 175)

·         Stage Road (TN 15)

·         State Route 300 — I-40/Thomas Street connector

·         Summer Avenue (TN 1)

·         Third Street/B.B. King Boulevard (TN 14)

·         Union Avenue east of Second (TN 3)

·         Walnut Grove Road west of I-240 (TN 23)

·         Weaver Road south of Shelby Drive (TN 175)

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