Submitting a claim to the government for pothole damage? Good luck with that

Sep 26, 2022, 10:25 PM | Updated: Sep 27, 2022, 10:30 am
UDOT says it spend over $1.5 million on fixing potholes in the last fiscal year, FY 2022....
UDOT says it spend over $1.5 million on fixing potholes in the last fiscal year, FY 2022.

HERRIMAN, Utah — From a distance, a pothole might not look like much, but it can do serious and expensive damage to your car.

Your friends might tell you to file a claim with the city or the state to cover the repair bill. Well, good luck with that because payouts for pothole damage in Utah are rare.

For you and me, potholes mean nothing but trouble. But for Salt City Wheels, potholes mean good business. On the day we met them, the mobile wheel repair shop was fixing not one but two Teslas.

“Usually, they’re trying to find a reason as to why their wheel is damaged,” said Salt City Wheels’ owner, Bryan Karsten. “A lot of times with the calls that we have, they say that it’s pothole damage.”

Salt City Wheels’ owner and operator Bryan Karsten says most customers of his mobile repair shop get their claim for pothole damage shot down.

And potholes can cause big damage: Punctured tires. Cracked or bent rims. Ruined exhaust systems on cars that bottom out. Engines crippled by damaged oil pans. And they can wreak havoc on your car’s alignment and suspension.

Karsten said most of their repair jobs cost around $200 to $300, but replacement is much more expensive if a wheel can’t be fixed.

“Anywhere from $400 to $500,” he said. “Some vehicles, even on Ford-150s, can be $2,000 plus to replace the factory wheel.”

According to AAA, drivers spend nearly $3 billion dollars every year to fix damage caused by potholes.

But if you hit a bad spot on a Utah road, do not expect a city or the state to rush in to pay for your repairs.

Pothole payouts

“People, generally, do not get payouts,” said Karsten, who has seen plenty of ticked-off drivers left high and dry by pothole damage.

“It might end up being a situation where they are unavoidable, and they end up having to hit it, and then in that situation, it is very frustrating for them,” he said. “Especially when they do put in the claim and then find out that it gets denied.”

To find just how often Utah governments payout for pothole damages, Get Gephardt sent records requests to ten cities and the state for claims made in the last four years.

During that time, Sandy City says they have paid out two of the three claims they received for $500 total. From there, payout rates bottom out.

West Valley City had 12 claims and paid $568.04 for two of them, making a 16.6% payout rate.

Of the nine claims Ogden received, they paid out $211 for just one claim – an 11.1% rate.

Salt Lake City says 51 drivers filed claims. The city paid off five of those for a total of $2,455.16, making for a payout rate of 9.8%.

St. George, South Jordan and Orem all reported zero claims during that time.

Provo did not pay anything for the seven complaints it received, and not one of Layton’s three claims was paid.

But the biggest road owner in Utah is the state. Claims go through the Utah Department of Transportation. UDOT told us they have paid $7,114.46 for 12 out of its 268 pothole damage claims, a 4.5% payout rate.

Why the potholes usually prevail

“Potholes are a product of the climate that we live in the extreme weather conditions,” said UDOT’s John Gleason. “It really is an unfortunate thing, but it is an act of nature.”

An act of nature, he said, since they are often caused by water seeping through the asphalt, then freezing and thawing during winter and spring. Still, Gleason insists the agency takes each claim seriously.

“If you have damaged your car, I mean, it’s understandable that people will be upset about that,” Gleason said.

UDOT’s John Gleason explains to KSL’s Matt Gephardt why less than 5% of the pothole damage claims that agency receives are paid out.

But the reality is the government will prevail unless you can prove the city or state was aware of the pothole beforehand and failed to fix it within a reasonable amount of time. That could mean a few days, depending on the weather.

“We get out there day, night, weekends, especially if it’s a serious issue that we’re concerned with – car damage to vehicles, anything like that,” explained Gleason. “Our crews are going to be out there immediately addressing it.”

Reporting potholes

UDOT relies on the public to be their eyes and ears for potholes. They even have a special app for it called Click-N-Fix. It allows you to drop a pin on a roadmap where you have come across a pothole. It also allows you to see pins dropped by other drivers reporting potholes.

That could help bolster your claim if you ever wanted to fight a denial from a municipality or the state and you see that pothole had previously been reported.

Public records from UDOT do show a good chunk of taxpayer money is going into fixing potholes. In the last fiscal year, FY 2022, $1,512,062 was spent filling potholes.

While local governments aren’t automatically immune from paying for pothole damage, claimants have to prove the government knew about the pothole beforehand and failed to fix it within a reasonable timeline

So, drive carefully out there because, as the numbers show, if you strike a pothole and pop a tire or damage your car in any way, the repair cost will likely come out of your wallet.

As for insurance, pothole damage will probably be handled under collision coverage, but an insurance claim could mean an increase in your premium. Since deductibles are usually $500 or $1,000, the odds are strong that you might wind up paying out of pocket for repairs.

*This story has been updated to reflect South Jordan received no claims for pothole damage repair.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: How cybercriminals use social engineering to get us to hand over our sensitive info

You can have the strongest, most secure password in the history of cybersecurity, but the bad guys know there is one weakness they can use to hack into your system - you!
4 months ago
Delric Ellington and Kael Ellington talk about a stray bullet that entered their Salt Lake City hom...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

Amid increase in youth shooting deaths, Utah pediatricians push for tougher gun laws

The number of Utah children and teens killed by gunfire reached a record high in 2020, in part because of a spike in homicides. Two Utah pediatricians are calling on the state to pass what they see as solutions to the troubling trend.
4 months ago
Albee Bostrom and Sissy McDade turned their love of thrift store shopping into a business: Thrift H...
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: Second-hand shopping, selling surge as Utahns try to beat rising prices

Data shared with the KSL investigators shows Utahns are trying to bring in more money and reduce spending as they try to bust inflation.
4 months ago
Bry Hansen visits his son's grave in South Jordan. (Tanner Siegworth/KSL TV)...
Annie Knox and Daniella Rivera, KSL TV

The number of Utah kids and teens dying by gunfire hit a record high in 2020

The state hit a devastating milestone in 2020, recording the highest-ever number of shooting deaths among Utahns 18 and younger.
4 months ago
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: What can you do if you pay someone to do work but they disappear with your money?

Imagine paying a deposit only to have them take your money and ghost you.
4 months ago
Photo illustration (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)...
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: Your credit card can up your interest rate without telling you

If your credit card company raises your interest rate even just a little bit, it could have a significant impact on how long it takes you to get out of debt. A relatively new law means your credit card company can do just that and they do not even have to give you the heads up.
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Submitting a claim to the government for pothole damage? Good luck with that