Channel 2 Investigates: City pays less than 25% of pothole car damage claims

ATLANTA — If a pothole on an Atlanta road damages your car, you may be out of luck.

A Channel 2 investigation found consumers often wait months to hear back, and that between May 2018 and May 2019, the City of Atlanta paid less than a quarter of pothole-related claims.

William Parker was driving home one evening in December 2018 when a pothole on West Paces Ferry in Northwest Atlanta popped two of his tires.

"It scared the daylights out of me. I thought I really broke an axle in the car; the thing hit so hard," he said.

Parker filed a police report, called a tow truck and replaced the tires.

The whole ordeal cost him $647. He filed a claim with the City of Atlanta to get reimbursed and was assigned a claim representative.


But Parker said after a few emails, it was radio silence for more than five months. At the time of publication, he had not heard from the city in more than five months.

"Every time I call, his phone goes to voicemail. I've sent him several emails; he hasn't responded. I've just heard nothing at all," he said. "I don't know what to do."

Parker is not alone. Through an open records request, Channel 2 Action News found that between May 15, 2018, and May 15, 2019, the City of Atlanta received 10,555 pothole reports.

The City of Atlanta said it repaired 25,213 potholes during that year-- more than twice the number reported.

In that same time, the city paid only 53 out of 242 pothole claims, and about 7% of the $722,671 in reported repair costs.

Most claims do make it before City Council. They are voted on after the city's law department reviews them.

Councilman Dustin Hillis, chairman of public safety, told Channel 2 Action News that city attorneys decide whether to pay a claim. In most cases, City Council votes to follow the law department's recommendation.

"We entrust the law department to make the right decision, and we make the final decision paying out or denying those claims."

Personal injury attorney Chris Simon told Channel 2 Action News one likely reason for being denied: if the claim does not show how the damage is the city's fault.

"You need to give them compelling reasons why they could have stopped this," he said.

[READ MORE: Here's what to do if an Atlanta road damages your car]
[READ MORE: Here's how to file claims in other metro Atlanta municipalities]

Simon said many claims take up to a year to be resolved. If a claim is denied, he said that it's probably not worth fighting it unless the damage is thousands of dollars.

"Filing a lawsuit is going to cost you $200 to $300 even without a lawyer," he said. "If there's something more, if there's an injury involved or the car's totaled, that's the point where you go talk to a lawyer."

For people like Parker, whose claim is still pending, Simon recommended deciding whether to file a claim with their insurance company or continue waiting for the city to make a ruling.

"It's just an economics decision for you as to whether you try to go to the next step," Simon said.

The City of Atlanta Mayor's Office declined to do an interview or provide a statement for this story.