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City of Denver pays out for pothole damage, but it's rare

Pothole in Denver
Posted at 9:34 PM, Mar 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-01 00:24:16-04

Colorado’s weather in March can be the perfect recipe for potholes — plenty of snow immediately followed by sunshine and warm temperatures. Hitting a pothole can do thousands of dollars in damage to your car, as many learn the hard way each year. The City of Denver does pay out damages for some pothole claims, but the data shows it’s rare.

Denver7 filed an open records request for claims of pothole damage filed against the City of Denver in spring 2021. Between March and June, records show 63 claims were filed. Of those, only seven resulted in a payout from the city. The payouts ranged from approximately $260 to $1,940.

Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson says there are two main reasons a claim is denied.

“One is the pothole on a street for which the city is actually responsible,” Bronson said. “Some people may think that an area is subject to city responsibility, but in fact it’s a private road or a private parking lot or something like that.”

The second main reason a pothole claim will be denied is if the city hasn’t had a reasonable amount of time to repair the pothole from when the it was reported. What constitutes a reasonable amount of time depends on several factors and cannot be generally quantified, Bronson says.

“Unfortunately, the legal standard is a reasonable period of time to fill the pothole, and there is no specific time-frame assigned to that,” Bronson said. “Some of it will depend on maybe the severity of the pothole, how complicated it is to repair it, how much time has elapsed. [We really] look at it on a claim-by-claim basis.”

The general takeaway for pothole season is the importance of reporting potholes to the city as you encounter them. Ideally, these reports will enable the city to repair the holes before they cause major damage. If damage does occur, prior reports of the pothole could be the difference between a paid or denied claim with the city.

“Making a phone call about a pothole is helpful for everyone,” Bronson said. “It’s then on us to go out and try to within a reasonable time repair it.”

You can report a pothole to the City of Denver online or by calling 3-1-1. If you sustain damage or injury from a pothole, you must file a claim with the city within 180 days of the incident.