State explains low pothole damage reimbursement rates, how process works

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – INDOT’s pothole blitz continues into the second night, but they’re far from done patching craters along I-465, I-69, I-65 and I-70.

In the meantime, lots of drivers are still hitting potholes and filing state tort claims. Many believe  they have a good chance at getting their money back, although previous reporting by FOX59 Investigates show how low both state and city reimbursement rates are.

Tuesday, Denise Robinson, chief counsel of investigations for the Attorney General’s Office sat down with FOX59. She walked our team through the process and state statute that their investigators use to decide whether to approve or deny a claim.

The first step to getting your claim approved is making sure the Attorney General’s Office receives it by certified mail or in-person within 270 days from the date of the incident.

That’s where Robinson says her investigators get started.

They check with INDOT to see if they ever received a report of that pothole or a pothole in that area and when they received notice.

Robinson says if they find INDOT knew about the pothole and didn’t repair it, they look at what mitigating factors may have prevented crews from fixing it. Whether it was too rainy or too cold, how many other potholes were on INDOT’s list at the time and what other pressing INDOT projects—including snow removal and salt preparation—were ongoing at the time are all factors investigators consider.

The goal is to determine the “reasonable” amount of time it should’ve taken INDOT to repair the area.

If INDOT didn’t fix it in a reasonable amount of time, the state pays out.

There’s a caveat though.

If the pothole was reported when it was smaller, then grew because of traffic and weather, but wasn’t reported at the new size, the state isn’t liable.

Or if INDOT didn’t have “enough” time to fix it, the state denies the claim.

Rather they deny or approve, they can also “administratively close” a claim.

Administratively closing happens when either a contractor was responsible for that stretch of roadway and is thus responsible for fulfilling the claim or the submitted request was for the city and not the state.

If the former, the driver has to reach out to the contractor themselves.

If the latter, the driver has to start the process all over again with the city.

Robinson says that’s why you should file as soon as possible. The state has 90 days to respond, but they are allowed exceptions so if you wait too long, you’ll miss the city’s 180-day cutoff from the time of the incident.

If you get denied and think the denial isn’t legitimate, you can still file a civil lawsuit, but of course you have to pay to initiate proceedings.