Cities not always on hook for pothole damage

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @Drewmikk

KING5.com

Posted on June 6, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 7 at 8:14 AM

TACOMA, Wash. -- Cities do not have to pay for damages to your car caused by a pothole if the city has no knowledge the pothole exists.

"I don't feel I should be responsible for a pothole that did damage to my car," said Gwendolyn Rody-Harris of Tacoma.

She said hitting a pothole in Tacoma broke the shock absorber on her Mercedes-Benz last month, causing $4,000 in damage. When she filed a claim with the city to get the damage paid for, she learned that the city is not liable for the damage because it didn't know the pothole was there.

Cities around the state, including Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia, adhere to the "prior knowledge" policy regarding pothole damage claims.

"I don't think citizens want local government paying for a staff person roaming around town looking for a problem. They want us spending that money actually fixing the street," said Tacoma City Councilman Ryan Mello, who admits the city has a deep pothole problem.

Mello wants to ask voters to raise money to fix the streets, but he also said the city needs to make it easier for drivers to report potholes so they can be fixed.

"We need a clear pothole hotline. There should be 21st Century tools like social networking sites," said Mello.

As for the hole that damaged Rody-Harris's car, the city said it has been filled in, but the hole has re-emerged. As a result, the city could be held responsible if it damages another car.

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