Getting the City to Pay for Damages

In late August, reader Martin Wolfson, who has been vigorously pursuing remuneration from the city for damages to his car (see below) , sent us the following:

“Despite evidence that the city was aware of the pothole I hit and took no action to fix it, my claim for repairs was denied by City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and investigator Craig Bushey.”

Shortly after that, Pam Teplitz — whose car also was damaged by an encounter with a pothole, sent us the following comment:

“I received a “rejection by operation of law” claim denial today from Mr. Trutanich and Investigator II Richard Wright for damages from a teeth-jarring pothole on La Brea. These rejections appear to be pro forma after 45 days and have to be pursued with a lawsuit within 6 months. Any ideas about how to proceed?”

In the latest update, Mr.  Wolfson successfully won his claim with Los Angeles for damages to his car:

Thanks for all your help. You’re doing a great thing for the people of LA.

I finally got my claim approved. I was going to get my check and then share a guide on everything I did to get it. I’ll share with you what I did and you can post it under your name if you would like.

I wrote the investigator and he admitted he never actually looked at the claim and it was automatically denied. I called his boss and spoke to him.

1. It is very important that you get proof that the City was aware of the pothole before the date of your loss otherwise they can claim immunity. To do this you must contact the Street Services Bureau and request street maintenance records for the block where your pothole is for the last 365 days (the block and direction of travel).

2. If the records show that the city had received a compliant about the pothole you hit, even if they fixed it and it came back, then you have a case. Fill out a claim with the city attorney’s office. They will deny it without looking at it.

3. Once they have denied it, call the city attorney’s office and ask them why they denied it. They will talk to you about immunity laws and such. Tell them that you have records showing the city knew about it. Email these to the investigator or ask to speak to the head investigator if you’re not getting anywhere.

This is what worked for me. It may have been easier just to go to small claims right off the bat, but either way make sure you get records from the Street Services Bureau. Perhaps even street sweeping records could show the city had to be aware. You could even get statements from residents around the pothole to ask how long it’s been there.

Congratulations, Martin. You’re an inspiration to everyone who has had (and will have to) go up against the city.

 Here’s the web address for filing a claim with the City Attorney’s Office:  City of Los Angeles Claim for Damages

The street address for the City Attorney’s Office: 111 N Hope St #340, Los Angeles, CA 90012

The phone number for the City Attorney Office: 213-978-7050 


9 Responses to “Getting the City to Pay for Damages”

  1. Suzanne P. on October 23rd, 2012 6:29 pm

    Thank you for your very informative report! How did you manage to get a report out of the street services division? I called and spoke with 8 different people (ok meybe a couple were the same, but this was in one call in one big circle) and no one admitted to knowing anything about the report of prior complaints you mention.

    Thanks for any help you can provide

  2. Orna Walberg on December 1st, 2014 5:12 pm

    I requested a refund for my pothole damage that occurred on 3-1-14. That left me with a repair expense of $967.54. I received a decline stating that the city of LA had no prior notice of this problem. Very interesting considering I went back to take pictures of the pothole 10 days after the incident, and it was fixed. It looks like a temporary fix since there was a plate with tar on the pothole.
    I just emailed the Bureau of Street Services requesting the reports for the street maintenance records. I am not holding my breath of receiving anything from them. Any idea on how to get my money that I had to pay? It is a valid claim that should be paid by the city of LA.
    Thank You,

  3. ramshod on December 4th, 2014 7:37 pm

    Orna: Escalate the matter. File an appeal and take the matter to the City Attorney’s office. Call your councilperson. Email the mayor. Send your information to Philip Drechsler (who did a Channel 4 story on potholes) as well as Michael.Hiltzik at The LA Times (who is an investigative reporter) and cc the BSS and the City Attorney’s office. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.

    Good luck

  4. rene on January 18th, 2015 11:52 am

    i went to the Bureau of Street Services requesting the reports for the street maintenance records they told me i had to get them from the city attorneys office. my vehicle damage is now almost $2000 im am stuck paying

  5. Robert Riker on March 13th, 2016 7:03 pm

    Sloppy fix at Bennet and Sylvania before Sylvania shit job sunk and ate my tires up do something or my attorney will look b into this city mess.

  6. EDW on March 23rd, 2016 7:51 pm

    Can anyone tell me how long it takes to hear back once you have filled out a form? I filled one out using the link to the right (which no longer works now) and I swore it was sent? Was I supposed mail it to the office in addition? Thank you!

  7. ramshod on March 25th, 2016 3:39 pm

    Dear EDW:

    Glad you filed with the city. When I deal with any bureaucracy, I email and then mail a certified letter with signature return card.

    If you don’t hear anything after three months, call the City Attorney’s Office at (213) 978-7050. Don’t forget you only have six months after damages to your property, so the clock is ticking.

    When the city revamped their website recently (making it much harder to use), they revamped and moved all their street repair forms and city claims forms. I’ve updated the LAPotholes site to reflect the new city pages for those forms.

    Good luck.

  8. Leni on August 26th, 2016 11:27 am

    Any help. Helps.

    I submitted a claim to the City Attorney’s Office. There is person assigned to the claim and I have a claim number. However, I have called and left messaged to person assigned to my case. I have tried multiple times to get a hold of this person with no response.The main number I call is (213) 978-7050. They always tell me that they have my claim and that it will take 6 months to 1 year for a decision. I submitted my claim in April 2016. I want to know what the person assigned to case is working on? I did not submit documentation nor pictures (there was no way to do so when filled online). I want to know what else I can do? I don’t want them coming back with denied after such long wait.

  9. ramshod on August 26th, 2016 3:31 pm


    This is no excuse for the horrible delay in dealing with your claim, but I’ll bet the City Attorney’s Office is swamped with claims — not just for pothole damage, mind you. You’ve done everything right so far — just make sure you have a paper trail. Every time you call the office, note the time, what was said, and who you talked to. Also send letters to your city council person, City Attorney Mike Feuer and the mayor’s office just to be safe. Then sit back and hope for the best.

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