City of Memphis hasn't paid any claims to drivers for pothole damage in 2018

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - If you hit a pothole and think City of Memphis will pay for the damage to your car, think again.

WMC Action News 5 discovered that not a single claim has been paid this year, and it's all because state law gives the city an out.

When you file a claim, the city gets to work, checking 311 and repair records to see if crews knew about the pothole or repaired it at an earlier date. If it's in the records, your claim is more likely to get paid.  If it's not, you're out of luck.

"For the taxes you pay, it's frustrating," said Memphis taxpayer Sheila Tolbert.

Dec. 22, she hit a pothole on Frayser Boulevard.  The damage to her car was two flat tires.  The damage to her wallet was nearly $400.

"This happened right before Christmas, which is hard and difficult as is. To have $400 come out of my pocket, I was so upset," Tolbert said.

Tolbert, a single mom raising a disabled daughter, immediately submitted a claim to the city, including the pictures and receipts requested. Last Monday, nearly two months after her costly run-in with the pothole, she finally got a response.

"I did everything they asked me to do, and I got an email saying the city isn't liable," Tolbert said. "I'm very frustrated the city does not help.  You pay your taxes to have nicely paved roads, and we don't have them. You have a right due you, and you don't receive it."

Citing a Tennessee state law, the claims department told Tolbert the city isn't liable because the city must have had prior notice that the pothole existed, and had at least five days to repair it.

Since Jan. 15, 315 pothole claims have been submitted by Memphis drivers, but no money has been paid out.  A city spokesperson said, "most cases are still under investigation."

"I know quite a few people who have hit potholes," Tolbert said.  "I want them and the rest of the city of Memphis to know chances are you're not going to be reimbursed. You have to count it as a loss."

WMC Action News 5 requested additional information from the city about the number of pothole claims received and paid out in 2016 and 2017.  We are still awaiting an answer from the city.   At last check, the city said at least 15,000 potholes have been repaired so far this winter season.

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