How does the Department of Transportation Repair Claims Process Work?
The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has jurisdiction over state trunkline (M, I, or US route), not local or county roads. Thus, if your car is damaged on a state truckline, due to the condition of the road condition you can submit a claim to MDOT. If you have a claim for repair on a county or local road you will have to contact your local officials. To file a claim for damages, an individual must fill out a form on MDOT’s website, have the form notarized, and attach any supporting documentation that you possess. The document must then be submitted to the individuals regional MDOT office. If the claim is under $1,000 it will be investigated (claims over $1,000 must be litigated). MDOT states that the investigation usually takes 90 days and are only completed for claims under $1,000.
MDOT finds that a majority of claims submitted to them are denied under government immunity laws. MDOT specifically points to two Michigan laws that work together to allow MDOT to deny claims. Under MCL 691.1402(1), the government “shall maintain the highway in reasonable repair so that it is reasonably safe and convenient for public travel.” Thus, a person who receives injury or damage to their property because of the government’s failure to maintain the highway may recover for damages suffered.
However, under MCL 691.1403, the government is only liable if “the government knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known,” of the defect before the injury occurred. It is conclusively presumed that there was knowledge “when the defect existed so to be readily apparent to an ordinary observant person for a period of 30 days or longer before the injury took place.” Thus, if the claimant can prove that the defect existed for 30 days or longer before they received an injury then they will be able to recover. However, it is the burden of the claimant to prove that the defect existed for the statutory period before they were injured.
Further, under MCL 691.1404(1), an injured person must file a claim within 120 days from the time of the injury. The notice shall specify “the exact location and nature, the injury sustained, and the names of the witnesses known at the time of the complaint.” MCL 691.1404(1). Once MDOT has notice they must repair the highway in a reasonable time. There is no indication from the court what a reasonable time is for a road to be repaired after MDOT is made aware of a defect.
It is important when entering this process that because of the high burden required most claims are not paid. In 2017, out of the 267 claims filed only nine were paid. In 2016, there were 224 claims and only fifteen were paid. In 2015, there were 226 claims and only seven were paid. Thus, if you can prove that the pothole was reported before the injury occurred, and the government failed to fix the road in a reasonable time after learning about the defect that caused the claimants injury, the claimant can recover. Additionally, a individual can be granted recovery if they can prove that the defect was “readily apparent to an ordinary observant person for a period of 30 days” before the injury took place.
If your vehicle has received damage due to current road conditions and the damage is over $1,000, contact Shinners & Cook, P.C. today.