Car damaged by pothole I-65 will the state reimburse me?

I’ve been potholed!

On the evening of Thursday Feb 3rd at approx 7:05pm I damaged my car along this patch of road hazard. There was no warning, no signage, and no caution signs. Total repairs were $427. Many news outlets have reported this area making the state well aware of the issue but in looking further I wonder if it even belongs as a tort / legal issue or whether the program and it’s participants would best be served elsewhere in the state government as I’ve come to believe what’s good for motorists is good for the state, perhaps even as good customer service.

The State of Tennessee doesn’t have a great payout rate and potholes in this general area have been reported:

I would argue the state was aware of potholes along this stretch of I-65 based on the news reports and more news reports. So previous knowledge existed and based on the sheer number of cars damaged that week there cannot be claim that knowledge was not known. The state has a low payout rate, less than 1% some years.

“In 2020, only seven claims out of 1,035 were approved. Previous years have similar numbers. While most claims are not approved, the Tennessee Department of Treasury wants to help the drivers who qualify for reimbursement.”

It’s my understanding you have to prove prior knowledge and negligence however who sets the bar for negligence? How do you prove prior knowledge without hiring an investigator to hack the state (think Timothy Farragut McGee from CBS’s NCIS or Taylor Rentzel / Cable McCrory from CBS’ s Bull) and find out through their records when they were notified? And what time table is needed for it to be reasonable vs. negligence? I’d argue there needs to be some more clarity and transparency.

With most claims not approved you shouldn’t need to hire an investigator or a law degree to figure out if your claim could be approved. The state reviewed over 1000 claims and only paid out on less than 1% in 2020. How much time and tax payer dollars could be saved in reviewing claims-to-be-denied if it were clearer whether a claim would be approved or not from the front end? I’d rather state employees spend time reviewing 20 claims and paying out on 7 than over 1000. That’s my tax dollars being spent in the review process. So I think the bigger question is why do we have a process that spends that much of the taxpayer money on such little ROI, in terms of actual servicing of the Tennessee motorist?

I also wonder if the tort program is where this should be housed where a legal requirement / process is implied. Wouldn’t it be better housed somewhere that really serviced Tennessee motorists and gave them the benefit of the doubt? Tennessee motorists aren’t legal opponents. They are citizens, interstate and intrastate commerce participants, taxpayers, and in many cases Tennesseans.

Shouldn’t we be doing what we can to keep Tennesseans moving? Tennesseans and others that stay motoring stay funding the state’s business. It’s in the state’s best interest to keep citizens and inter / intrastate commerce participants moving. What’s good for them is good for the state. When a worker can’t get to work due to a flat tire, all of Tennessee suffers from customers at their workplaces to the state’s tax revenue generated by their employer.

Wouldn’t it be better if it were considered a customer service program? We are after all customers of Tennessee roadways. The toll road model has long considered that to be a valid analogy. So instead of having to prove negligence on the part of the state making every motorist a plaintiff, why not consider every motorist a customer and make the payout a customer service function?

My repair bill. For the record this Firestone is the best on planet earth in my estimation. White House, TN 116 Wilkinson Lane.

So I have a case. I will be filing this week (2/7-2/13) with the state and awaiting approval or denial based on the documentation I can compile. I did not show this to the state for an opinion or rebuttal. But I would argue it’s an uphill battle given the state’s track record in denied claims being around 90% in any given year.

I would argue however the state should reconsider where the claims go. Tennessee and inter / intrastate motorists should be customers, not plaintiffs, citizens not the enemy, and part of what makes Tennessee great – not part a claim to be denied. Tennessee, will you volunteer to reconsider where this program resides so those who make our state go and keep tax revenues rolling in aren’t made to feel like they just hit a pothole in the road to getting reimbursed for damage to their cars?

Update: March 2022:

I filed a claim through the Origami Risk Portal the State of Tennessee points one to. The Origami Risk Portal has a form to fill out:

I received a call shortly after my claim was filed from a Youndolyn Smith from CorVel Corporation. She called on a Friday around 5:30p where 6pm was the closing time for CorVel so there as not an opportunity to return the call. I then got an email that asked the same basic information as the State of TN Claim form did along with some other questions so I answered them.

When Corvel reached out on 2/11/2022 they asked many of the same questions – so there appears to be some redundancy or they are not sent the information from the Origami system:

Shortly after that I got a letter in the mail – see below – that said they could not reach me by phone. I responded by email once again but this time asking if there was anything further needed. There was no reply. The last attempt I made was 2/14/2022 at 12:58pm.

Here is my reply from 2/14/2022. There has been no reply to my submission or acknowledgment of receipt. .

On 3/11/2022 I received a call from Corvel asking the same questions for the most part. I confirmed the car ownership, damage, and they confirmed they sending the info to TDOT. They stated they have been inundated with claims and are working diligently to investigate all claims. They stated that that if the state does not reply in 90 days Corvel will send a letter stating they do not have enough information for the claim and that I can file an appeal. They also gave a call back number of 615 843 5724.

In terms of analysis it seems the state can simply let the clock run out.

Update 4/7/2022:

I finally got a chance to have the wheel looked at. It had to be replaced so I am going to file a claim for the wheel damage. I did not do so before because of the time involved and no local wheel shop on my way to my office but now that it’s done and replaced, I might as well file.

Cost to repair was $386.96

The wheel damage I didn’t assess initially.

On April 15, 2022 Corvel sent a letter denying the claim. This is going to be appealed.

WKRN Reported in May 2022 that “multiple roadways will not make it through another winter” (WKRN, May 2022) (

WKRN also reported that some Tennessee Highways use Asphalt even though it’s known that concrete pavements have a longer design life.

“I checked with some local experts and they report that virtually none of the major freight corridors through Middle Tennessee have concrete pavements. The U.S. interstate system is 60 percent concrete, and higher in urban freight corridors,” stated Dr. Strong. “Many states, including Illinois, California, Washington, and Minnesota have moved to require Long-Lived Concrete Pavements for their major urban freight corridors. These types of pavements have design lives of 40-50 years compared to 20-25 years for full-depth asphalt and 7-10 years for a well-constructed asphalt-bonded overlay. The life of a pavement is impacted by traffic volumes, the number of heavy trucks, and maintenance practices.” – Dr Kelly Strong as reported on WKRN

An additional claim for the wheel damage was filed on 7/8/2022. It happened during the same incident but has been filed separately since the damage was found on a separate date.

Total Damages were $814.16