Steer Clear of Pothole Accidents On The Rise in South Carolina

car passing over a pot hole

Maybe you’ve seen the road workers on highways in Columbia, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and elsewhere patching potholes.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) says it launched a pothole repair blitz in January after getting numerous recent reports of potholes creating driving hazards. In a tweet, the SCDOT blamed the rash of potholes on weeks of heavy rainfall.

Road maintenance crews will be active for the next several weeks filling potholes across the state.

S.C. drivers and others can report potholes that need to be patched through a SCDOT web page dedicated to pothole repair. To report a pothole by phone, call 855-GO-SCDOT (855-467-2368) toll free or (888) 324-3100.

“We’re out on the road monitoring as we drive, calling them in, and we’re also taking requests from people who are calling in at the same time,” Joe Winfield, SCDOT resident maintenance engineer, told WACH Fox 57 in Columbia.

“If you hit a pothole and you damage your vehicle, you can file a damage claim by SCDOT,” Winfield said. “If you file a damage claim and we find it to be an accurate damage claim, we will compensate for that.”

The State newspaper in Columbia said SCDOT paid more than $6.6 million to settle road-damage claims between July 2016 and April 2017 and had paid out $5.7 million during the 2015-’16 fiscal year. There were more than 3,000 damage claims filed with SCDOT in both 2015 and 2016. Potholes had been the cause of damage in two-thirds of claims between 2010 and 2017.

Unfortunately, patching a pothole is only a temporary solution, Winfield said. The needed road reconstruction requires state money to be allocated for the larger project.

Why So Many Potholes in South Carolina?

Most South Carolina drivers have had the bone-rattling experience of hitting a deep pothole and wondering if the car was damaged. South Carolina is known for its poor performance when it comes to road maintenance. A recent survey rated South Carolina roads the worst in the nation and noted that S.C. roads were bumpy and pocked by potholes.

Potholes form because of wear and tear aided by the destructive force of water and freeze-and-thaw cycles. As water freezes, it expands, which causes cracks and other breaks in pavement. These gaps let more water in, which weakens asphalt and the ground underneath roadways, and increases freeze-and-thaw breakage.

The areas most prone to pothole development are those where drainage is poor (particularly where roads dip), where vehicular traffic is heavy, and where poor maintenance allows small fissures in pavement or asphalt to deteriorate further, says Pothole.info.

Road maintenance is key, but that costs money. According to Pothole.info, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission of the U.S. Congress said more than a decade ago that the annual investment required to maintain the nation’s highways, roads, and bridges was estimated to be $185 billion per year for the next 50 years.

Six annual 2-cent gas tax hikes that South Carolina leaders approved in 2017 are expected to generate an additional $70 million a year to be deposited into the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF). As of November 2019, the S.C. Department of Transportation had made more than $1.2 billion in project commitments tied to the gas-tax law.

South Carolina Transportation Secretary Christy Hall told The State in June 2019 that South Carolina had $11 billion worth of pavement needs as a result of 30 years of backlogged maintenance.

State and industry officials and transportation experts say repairing South Carolina’s highway system will take more than a decade to complete.

How to File a Pothole Damage or Injury Claim

The AAA auto club explains that hitting a pothole can damage a car’s tires, wheels, shocks and struts, tie rods, ball joints, and more. Pothole-related auto repair costs average $306, but some unfortunate drivers wind up paying more than $1,000 to fix the damage.

If your vehicle has been damaged by hitting a pothole in South Carolina, you can file a claim seeking compensation from the S.C. Department of Transportation. Because of the delay in processing claims, in most cases, car owners will need to pay to have repairs done, then seek reimbursement.

Obtain a damage claim form from SCDOT online and submit it along with two repair estimates or a paid invoice to the SCDOT Maintenance Office in the county where the incident occurred.

The person filing the claim must be the registered vehicle owner, and a copy of the vehicle registration must be included with the claim form. A vehicle owner has one year from the date of the pothole accident to file a damage claim. Under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (Section 15-78-10), the SCDOT or its insurance carrier has 180 days after a claim is received to decide whether to pay or deny the claim.

In addition to vehicle registration and insurance information, the damage claim form requires the date and time of the accident, the location of the pothole and a description of the accident and the damage caused. It also asks for the name of any witnesses to the accident.

The problem goes further than vehicle damage, though. Hitting a pothole – or trying to avoid one – can cause a driver to swerve suddenly or lose control of the vehicle and crash. A blown tire or broken suspension can lead to a car accident, as well. Such a crash at high speed can easily cause injuries.

You can also seek compensation from SCDOT for injuries suffered in a pothole-related car accident. South Carolina has paid a total of more than $48 million dollars in claims since 2010 for personal injury and vehicle damage caused by the state’s failing roads, according to The State and SCDOT figures.

Contact a South Carolina Car Accident Lawyer About a Pothole Claim

South Carolina has what looks like an easy process for obtaining reimbursement for pothole-related vehicle damage or injury, and a September 2019 investigation by The Post and Courier in Charleston concluded that S.C. cities and the SCDOT have paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars for damage caused by potholes since 2013. But they still don’t reimburse drivers for a majority of the claims they receive.

SCDOT spokesman Pete Poore said the agency typically pays out about 40 percent of submitted claims, according to the report. If the road where the accident happened is maintained by an entity other than the state, the SCDOT will deny the claim and tell the claimant where to file again.

Joye Law Firm will press for full compensation for you if you have been injured as a result of a South Carolina pothole accident. We’ll do the research to ensure your claim for compensation is filed properly. Having our experienced S.C. car accident lawyers at Joye Law Firm working on your behalf means that we will handle the claims process and you can focus on your recovery and health.

Contact us at (888) 324-3100 or use this online contact form for a free case review today. We help clients with car accident cases in ColumbiaMyrtle BeachNorth CharlestonClinton, and more South Carolina locations.

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