NBC 10 I-Team Exclusive: Massachusetts drivers face rough road for pothole claims

It can be part of life in Southern New England: expensive damage to your car from driving on rough winter roads. (WJAR)

It can be part of life in Southern New England: expensive damage to your car from driving on rough winter roads.

Rhode Island drivers can get up to $300 cash back to cover pothole damage if they act quickly and file a claim within seven days.

But potholes don’t stop at the state line.

So, what it your hit one in Massachusetts?

The NBC 10 I-Team dug through more than 700 Rhode Island pothole claims filed for damage on state roads in the past two years. During that time, 598 people got checks for an average of about $225 each, while more than 100 others were turned down, primarily because they missed Rhode Island’s tight deadline.

But the NBC 10 I-Team learned that the process is different in Massachusetts -- and it’s tougher to get paid.

"You have to first find out what road you're on, whether it's a state road or a city and town road,” said John Paul of AAA Southern New England. “That makes a difference."

That’s because Massachusetts state law doesn’t allow claims for property damage on state roads -- only claims for personal injury. Unless someone in your car was hurt, you can’t get paid.

You may be able to file a claim for damage on a local road that’s maintained by a city or town. But you’ll have to prove that the city or town knew about the pothole and didn’t act quickly enough to fix it.

"Considering the amount of potholes on the road, and the amount of drivers on the road, chances are you’re probably better off buying a lottery ticket,” Paul joked.

If you still think your claim qualifies under Massachusetts law, don’t delay. Cities and towns only budget so much money for pothole claims, and the process can be lengthy.

Sometimes, hitting a pothole is unavoidable. If that’s the case, Paul recommends slowing down, then taking your foot off the brakes jus before you go into the pothole to minimize the impact on your car.

“The car's going to lift up a bit, and hopefully clear the pothole without too much damage,” he said.

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