Michigan roads are in poor condition, and drivers are paying the price.

In 2018, Crain’s Detroit Business conducted a study of the state’s roads. They used the state Department of Transportation, TRIP transportation research, and the county road commissions as sources. They also spoke to the owners of local repair shops.

What they found was that Michigan’s poor road conditions — and lack of spending on roads — were causing a lot of damage. Every year, Michigan spends $154 per capita on roads. That number is dwarfed by Pennsylvania’s $530 per capita.

What’s more, the U.S. Department of Transportation rated more than half of the state’s highways and roads as poor. 

The people paying for those poor road conditions are Michigan’s motorists. TRIP, the National Transportation Research Nonprofit, reports the roads to cost the average Michigan driver in metropolitan Detroit $865 in annual repairs.

Another study by TRIP said the average repair cost per year for the entire state is $648 per person. What’s more, only 32% of the state’s major roads were labeled in “good” condition by a 2017 Federal Highway Administration study.

Poor road conditions can cause a great amount of damage to cars. Potholes are especially dangerous. 

So, what happens if your car suffers damage from a pothole in Michigan?

The State Will Pay You Back — Maybe

If your car suffers damage from a pothole, you can file a claim to be reimbursed by the state. That process will be done through the Michigan Department of Transportation. 

The challenge, of course, is proving your case and actually getting the state to admit fault. Many of the claims made against the state are denied because of immunity laws the government maintains, according to WILX10.

If the damage is less than $1,000, you can file a claim directly with MDOT. You need to fill out Form #3600 and get it notarized to be considered.

As part of your claim, you have to prove a number of things. First, you have to prove that MDOT failed to maintain the road in reasonable repair or prove a defect of the highway itself.

Second, you have to prove MDOT knew about the road’s condition and had ample opportunity to fix it. Third, you have to prove the pothole you hit was there for at least 30 days and was left unrepaired. 

After all that, the state will only cover any damages that your auto insurance company doesn’t cover.

If the damage is more than $1,000, then you’d have to file a lawsuit against the Department of Transportation to recover damages.

Your Insurance Company Will Pay You — Depending on Your Coverage

In most cases, your auto insurance company will cover pothole damage, provided a few things. First, you need to have collision coverage. This type of coverage is what pays for damage to your vehicle that results from it hitting another object.

That object in many cases is another vehicle. But, it can also be a guard rail, telephone pole, falling object, or a pothole. Normal wear and tear that happens due to typical road conditions aren’t normally covered.

If you have collision coverage, you must be able to prove to your insurance company that the damage your vehicle suffered was due to a pothole. In some cases, this is very easy to do. 

You may be able to take a photo of the actual pothole that caused the damage. This would be in addition to any photos you take of your vehicle after it suffered the damage. 

Even if you can’t take photos of the actual pothole, it may not be tough to prove the damage was the result of a pothole. It certainly will be easier than proving to the state that they are liable for the damage.

The final thing to consider is whether it’s worth it to have your insurance pay for the pothole damage. Almost all auto insurance plans have a deductible. This is the amount of money you must pay for any claim before your insurance company will pay.

In other words, it may not be worth it to file an auto insurance claim for pothole damage. If your deductible is $500 and the damage costs $600 to fix, it may not be worth it.

While you would save $100 by filing a claim, your auto insurance premium may increase as a result. This is, of course, a personal choice you would need to make. But, unless the amount of damage is significantly greater than your deductible, it’s usually not worth filing an insurance claim.

Know What Your Insurance Covers

One of the biggest problems most drivers face is they don’t know what their insurance policy actually covers. Michigan state law requires motorists to carry no-fault insurance coverage known as Personal Injury Protection (PIP). 

It doesn’t, however, require you to carry collision coverage. This is a completely optional coverage you would have to opt into when obtaining insurance.

If you hit a pothole without collision coverage, you will be out of luck if you try to file a claim. Situations like this emphasize why it’s so important to know what coverage you’re paying for. They also emphasize the importance of working with an insurance company you can trust.

At Signature Insurance, we have been helping Michigan drivers just like you navigate the muddy waters of auto insurance. We can educate you on what state law requires, what coverages are optional to you, and what it all means in the bottom line. 

We work every day to make sure our customers are protected and happy. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you, and to get a free quote on auto insurance and more.