After snow, more potholes. How to report in NC and have the state pay for car damage

·6 min read

As last week’s snow melts, you’ll probably be left with a wet and muddy yard at home — and out on the roads, potholes.

If you find yourself swerving to miss those pesky road defects, you might also find yourself asking some questions.

How do potholes form? Why are you seeing more of them after snow? Can you report the pothole to someone so that it can be repaired?

To answer those questions and more — including how you can file a damage claim to request reimbursement for any damage to your car — we compiled information from the N.C. Department of Transportation and from local city websites.

Here’s what you should know about potholes.

How do potholes form?

The NCDOT website says potholes generally form as a result of water seeping into pavement cracks, then freezing.

Because water expands when it freezes, the pavement cracks become wider and deeper.

Over time, as the cracks grow and traffic drives over them, the pavement breaks up, resulting in potholes.

Because potholes are more likely to form when water freezes, they occur most often during winter or early spring — but they can form other times, too.

How does NCDOT prevent and address potholes?

NCDOT says they use a proactive strategy to prevent potholes where possible.

During the warmer months of the year, NCDOT maintenance crews apply a thin overlay of asphalt to roads to keep them in good condition in the cooler months.

During the winter, crews seal existing cracks to keep out any water that could eventually freeze and create potholes.

NCDOT says these measures are cost effective because they help prevent problems that could lead to more expensive repairs in the future.

But some potholes will slip through the cracks and form anyway. To address and repair potholes that form, NCDOT crews:

Clean out any pavement, gravel or water from the hole.

Fill the hole with new asphalt and compact it to roadway level.

Some road patches will last longer than others, NCDOT says.

The department says that’s because asphalt plants are closed during the winter, so hot asphalt isn’t available.

Instead, crews might use a “cold mix” substance, which doesn’t always adhere to the surrounding pavement as well as hot asphalt does.

A pothole measuring more than 3 feet across appeared in Wendell in 2012. NCDOT is required to fix any reported pothole within two business days.
A pothole measuring more than 3 feet across appeared in Wendell in 2012. NCDOT is required to fix any reported pothole within two business days.

How do I report a pothole in NC?

How you report a pothole in North Carolina will depend on whether the road is maintained by the state or a municipality.

Reporting a pothole on a state-maintained road

To find out whether a road is maintained by the state, visit nconemap.gov/maps and click on “NCDOT State Maintained Roads.”

The map features more than 74,000 primary roads and interstates throughout the state.

If you verify that the road where you saw a pothole is maintained by the state, you can report the pothole using NCDOT’s online pothole reporting system. Go to ncdot.gov/CONTACT and select “Potholes.”

You can also report a pothole on a state-maintained road to NCDOT by calling 1-877-368-4968 on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

North Carolina law requires NCDOT to repair potholes on state-maintained roads within two business days of the road defect being reported.

Reporting potholes on other roads

If you see a pothole on a road that is not maintained by the state, you will generally report it to the public works department in the town or municipality where you saw the defect.

To report a pothole in Raleigh, visit seeclickfix.com/raleigh.

To report a pothole in Durham, complete a report form at durhamnc.gov/2996/Durham-One-Call-Online-Request or call 919-560-1200.

To report a pothole in Chapel Hill, visit the town’s SeeClickFix portal or call 919-969-5100.

To report a pothole in Apex, visit apexnc.org/report.

To report a pothole in Cary, fill out the form at services.townofcary.org/CommunitiesCaseManagement.

To report a pothole in Clayton, fill out a report form at townofclaytonnc.org/FormCenter.

To report a pothole in Fuquay-Varina, call the town’s public works department at 919-753-1027.

To report a pothole in Garner, visit garnernc.gov and click on the “service requests” icon. You can also download the “Garner info” app.

To report a pothole in Holly Springs, complete a report online at reporting.hollyspringsnc.us.

To report a pothole in Knightdale, visit knightdalenc.gov/residents/report-problem.

To report a pothole in Smithfield, email Lawrence Davis at lawrence.davis@smithfield-nc.com.

To report a pothole in Wake Forest, visit wakeforestnc.gov/report-problem.

To report a pothole in Wendell, visit townofwendell.com/government/tell-wendell or call 919-365-4822.

To report a pothole in Zebulon, visit townofzebulon.org/report-problem.

What if my car was damaged because of a pothole?

If your vehicle was damaged by a pothole and that pothole had been reported to the state and it was not repaired within a reasonable amount of time, you can file a damage claim to request reimbursement for the repair costs.

If the pothole had not been reported to the state, there is no chance of reimbursement.

According to a report by ABC11 in 2020, North Carolina paid out $13,068 in damage claims in a 12-month period between September 2018 and October 2019, all in cases in which the state admitted they knew about potholes but didn’t fix them quickly.

To fill out a claim:

Fill out a Citizen Incident Statement, found at ncdot.gov/contact/Documents/tort_claims.pdf.

Mail the form to the NCDOT office in the county where your vehicle was damaged. Find a list of county offices at ncdot.gov/contact/Pages/county-contacts.aspx.

NCDOT will submit the driver’s claim, as well as the department’s own report, to the N.C. State Attorney General’s Office, which will determine whether NCDOT knew about the pothole and made an effort to repair it within a reasonable length of time.

Find out more about filing a claim at ncdot.gov/contact/Pages/claims.aspx.

What if the road is cracked, but it’s not a pothole?

Not all road defects are potholes.

NCDOT says another common road defect is delamination, which occurs when the top layer of pavement breaks and forms shallow divots.

NCDOT says that due to the vast amount of state-maintained roads — about 80,000 miles total — the department only patches delaminations if they are severe.

“There simply is not enough funding to patch every roadway imperfection,” the department says on their website.

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