Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Ohioans Seek Compensation for Pothole Damage Through Court of Claims

Image of a pothole

There are a few hurdles Ohioans must clear before receiving pothole compensation. (Bertold Werkmann/iStock/Thinkstock)

Image of a pothole

There are a few hurdles Ohioans must clear before receiving pothole compensation. (Bertold Werkmann/iStock/Thinkstock)

The yo-yo known as Ohio winter weather can have an adverse impact on the state’s roads and highways with a cycle of freezing and thawing that results in potholes.

Each year, the Court of Claims of Ohio processes hundreds of claims from Ohioans seeking compensation from the state for damage to their vehicles caused by potholes.

Daniel R. Borchert, interim clerk with the Court of Claims, said there are a few hurdles Ohioans must clear before receiving pothole compensation.

First, drivers must determine if the Ohio Department of Transportation has jurisdiction through its maintenance of the state highway. In some cases, ODOT has contracted with political subdivisions (cities or townships) to maintain interstates within their boundaries, for instance. Those claims should go to that jurisdiction if so.

Next, the driver must prove that ODOT received notice of the existence of a pothole and that ODOT’s failure to repair the pothole in a timely fashion led to the vehicle’s damage.

“It’s basically a tort case,” Borchert said. “ODOT has a duty to the public to maintain the state’s highways. A plaintiff must prove that ODOT breached that duty and the breach caused damage to plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff must also prove that ODOT had actual or constructive notice of the pothole and failed to repair in a reasonable amount of time.”

Those seeking compensation pay a $25 filing fee with their complaint. Within 60 days, ODOT files an investigation report about the claim. The plaintiff has 21 days to reply.

Borchert advises Ohio drivers to present as much evidence as they can such as the exact location of the pothole and affidavits from other drivers in the area if possible. He also urged Ohioans to avoid assuming that ODOT isn’t aware of a pothole especially when multiple claims about the same pothole can sometimes arrive in quick succession.

Any claim filed within the two-year statute of limitations and for an amount under $10,000 is handled as an administrative determination by the clerk of the Court of Claims. Those decisions can be appealed to the judge of the Court of Claims whose decision is final.

The minimal filing fee, relative ease of the process, and typical low-dollar damage amount mean that hiring an attorney is not necessary, Borchert said, noting that there are no court hearings. Winning claimants – about half of those filing pothole claims receive an award – also get their filing fee back.

“We try to make it very consumer friendly at the administrative determination level,” he said.

Ohioans with pothole damage can either download an administrative determination complaint form from the Court of Claims website, print it, fill in the information, and mail it back or call the Court of Claims at 1.800.824.8263 to receive a packet of information that contains a printed copy of the form to fill in the information and mail it back.

The Court of Claims is given original jurisdiction to hear and determine all civil actions filed against the State of Ohio and its agencies.

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