INDIANAPOLIS -- The city of Indianapolis has paid out only 6 percent of pothole tort claims filed by drivers since January 2015, records show.
So far in 2015 and 2016, the city has granted 17 settlements to drivers who had damage to their cars for a total of $7,948.
The city denied 199 out of 281 pothole claims, and some are still under investigation.
So far in 2016, only two drivers have won their cases against the city, totaling $221.61.
Ned Mulligan is one of the few drivers who won his case against the city after hitting a big pothole on the north side.
“Once I hit it, it jarred the whole car,” said Mulligan, who received a nearly $500 settlement from the city.
Mulligan is also an Indianapolis attorney and knew how to win his case.
“I documented everything,” said Mulligan. “I took a photo when I hit the pothole, and then I went back a few days later, they had actually filled it. The photos also showed that there had been a pothole there before that had not been filled all that well, so they failed to properly fix it the first time.”
In order to win their claim, drivers have to prove the city was negligent in failing to fix the pothole.
The city has to be aware of the pothole and have a reasonable opportunity to fix the pothole.
“Claims get denied because the city does not know about the pothole and does not have a reasonable time to fix it,” said Jennifer Hashem, spokesperson for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works. “In some cases, they do know about the pothole and they do have a reasonable amount of time, and in that case, the claim would get approved.”
What is “reasonable” depends on the weather conditions, how many other pothole requests there are, as well as how many DPW workers are on hand at the time.
You can increase your chance of getting money by following the directions and submitting all the necessary documentation.
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“Give them as much information as you can,” said Mulligan. “You have to build your case and close off any avenues for them to avoid paying you. The more information you can provide the better.”
When city Office of Corporation Counsel receives a claim, it goes to a tort claim investigator who looks at documents submitted including invoices and photos.
By law, the city has 90 days to process a tort claim.
The city recommends you submit invoices for work completed on your car, not estimates.
Ashley Fleener received a $342 settlement with the city in September after hitting a large pothole on West Street near Vermont and New York.
“I hit it and it went flat right away, and it wasn’t the first time I had hit it either,” said Fleener.
Fleener said she sent photographs of the tire, the bill from the body shop, and made sure to send it certified mail.
“I was very happy to get the check,” said Fleener. “I felt like I had followed all the rules and I did the best I could with it.”
Records show the amounts paid out for pothole claims vary greatly from year to year.
In 2014, the city approved 70 claims out of the 1,239 filed for a total of $30,916.
In all of 2013, the city received 156 pothole tort claims and paid a total of $3,553.
The city issued $468 in pothole tort claim settlements in 2012 after receiving 145 complaints.
In 2011, after a harsh winter for roads, the city received 1,247 pothole tort claims and paid out $152,848.
Indianapolis received 33 inches of snow in 2009-2010, 37.4 inches in 2010-2011, 9.8 inches in 2011-2012, 34.5 inches in 2012-2013 and 55.7 inches in 2013-2014.
In 2014-2015 Indianapolis received 25.6 inches of snow and only 13.3 inches in the 2015-2016 winter season.