Tips on how to file a tort claim for Indiana pothole damage

86 claims filed already for 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - Eighty-six tort claims for damage caused by potholes have been filed so far in 2014 in the City of Indianapolis, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney found, showing this could be a particularly bad year for pothole claims.

In all of 2013, 156 pothole tort claims were filed, with $3,553 being paid out to citizens.

Following a mild winter in 2012, only 145 pothole tort claims were made and no money was dispersed to residents.

This year is shaping up to be similar to 2011, when 1,247 pothole tort claims were filed with the city and $152,848 was paid out to citizens.

The money comes out of the Department of Public Works budget, according to Beth Garrison, chief litigation counsel for the City of Indianapolis.

“That winter (of 2010-2011) was particularly harsh and that generated a lot of potholes,” said Garrison. “We assume 2014 will be similar to 2011.”

Garrison said the city typically sees an influx of tort claims filed in March, April and May.

The city-county does not settle every tort claim, but each tort claim is investigated to determine if the City of Indianapolis was negligent.

Garrison said Indiana case law says you don’t have a responsibility to fix something unless you’re aware of the problem.

“If we’re not on notice of a problem, we can’t repair it,” said Garrison.

In other words, you are unlikely to get money from the city if there have been no complaints about that particular pothole.

To report a pothole call the Mayor’ Action Center at 317-327-4MAC or use the RequestIndy tool.

However, if you can prove the city knew about the pothole and did not fix it, and your car was damaged, you have a much better chance of receiving payment.

“We can’t just write a blank check,” said Garrison. “If someone is claiming damage, the more evidence you have to support your position, the better of you’ll be -- estimates, invoices, photos.”

Garrison said many people do not understand it takes them time to look into someone’s claim.

“We are encouraging people to be patient,” said Garrison. “We need an opportunity to investigate.”

The city's website lays out the timeline for pothole claims, saying, "We will notify you in writing within 90 days of receipt if your claim is approved… By law, a claim is denied if not settled within 90 days.”

If your car was damaged because of a pothole and you’d like to file a tort claim, you can write a letter to the Office of Corporation Counsel, 1601 City-County Building, 200 E. Washington St., Indianapolis IN 46204-3372.

Here’s what to include:

  1. Name and address of claimant
  2. Claimant's telephone number
  3. Location, date and time of alleged occurrence
  4. Short and plain statement of the facts on which the claim is based, including names, addresses and phone number of witnesses (if applicable), circumstances that brought about the loss, the time and place the loss occurred
  5. Damage(s) and/or injury sustained
  6. Extent of loss or repair if known (copies of estimates, bills, receipts, photos, etc. may be provided if possible)
  7. Amount of damages sought
  8. The residence of the person making the claim at the time of the loss and at the time of filing the notice.

Other resources:

- Information on how to file a tort claim with the state for damage to your car on an interstate or state road

- Information on how to file a tort claim due to damage on Indianapolis streets

- Report a pothole to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)

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