How to get reimbursed for pothole damage

Don't Waste Your Money

Local car repair shops report an influx of damaged cars, with everything from blown tires and damaged alloy wheels to broken suspension parts and front air dams.

In the old days, potholes did not cause as much damage because tires were fatter, absorbing more of the impact.

Today's low profile tires look better, but are much more susceptible to road damage. In addition, they typically ride on alloy rims, not the steel rims of Dad's old car.

That means the body shop can no longer "hammer out" the damage to a wheel caused by a pothole hit. You usually have to buy a whole new wheel ($300 - $800) along with a new tire ($100- $300).

Can You Get Reimbursed?

Hitting a pothole with a newer car, with alloy wheels, can easily cost you more than $1,000 in damage.

So you want to try to get someone to cover it, even though your chances may not be very good.

While laws vary from city to city and state to state, most municipalities have laws similar to those in the city of Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Municipal Code allows for reimbursement for pothole repairs if you can show the city was negligent.

This means the city knew about the pothole, but did nothing about it.

However, if you are the first to report the pothole, you are out of luck:  it is considered an Act of God, and the city is not responsible.

So if you hit one and damage your car:

            -Take cellphone photos of the damage and the pothole, if possible. You will need to be able to prove, within reason, that the damage happened in city limits, not in another place.

      -Call the municipality and ask how to report a pothole. Typically it is the local public works department, so it varies.  Start with the main city hall number.

       -In Cincinnati, the central reporting number is 513-561-6000, or visit

       -In Hamilton County, Ohio, outside of the city call 513-946-4250

       -In other areas of Ohio, call the state Department of Transportation at 513-821-1409

       -In Kentucky, call 1-800-PATCH-IT.

Ask how to file a claim, and then file it.

Do not expect a quick response or reimbursement. If you get anything, it can take a couple of months, so you will need to pay for repairs yourself. Of course, save all receipts, and submit to the city.

Contact Insurance?  Maybe Not

If the damage is less than $500, do not contact your insurance company. 

It may count as a claim, and chances are you may have a $500 deductible, so you will get nothing. And it may count as collision damage, the worst possible damage, which can raise your rates.

Finally, if you file a claim, follow up every couple of weeks.

You may get something, so you don't waste your money.


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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