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 

20 Replies to “Getting the City to Pay for Damages”

  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Leni:

    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.

  10. Hi, I am about to submit a pothole-ruptured-tire claim. Does anyone who has had success winning their claim have a recommended wording of the letter that worked for them?

  11. We will be filing a claim against the city that caused my wife to puncture her tire due to the pipes sticking out of the sidewalkTire repair cost $180.00 and I have pictures of the street.We want to be reimburst due to the fact that no action has been taken to repair this street in years We live on 5545 Lindley Avenue #1 Tarzana Ca 91356

  12. Thank you for this website, specifically this page and its postings. My incident was back in January 2016 on one of the most notorious roads for potholes, Forest Lawn Drive. I fortunately found your website/post at the time of my incident because of researching how to approach this entire matter before jumping into it. I did EVERYTHING as described by Mr. Wolfson, and yes, everything unfolded as he said. I dutifully completed all forms as requested by the city attorney ( which suspiciously did not work online and I had to do paper form instead), found exactly what I needed at the street Bureau, which was written documentation of the pothole’s existence prior to my incident date as well as its repair record being the day after. The LA attorney’s office did take a long time and I finally received a call from the investigator denying the claim. This was to be expected because it is standard protocol for any lawyer/legal office to always deny and say no first, and if the other party really wants it bad enough, they’ll be back again and then again. After that, then finally grant what they are seeking. Legalese and legal practices are diabolical and based on admiralty law and man’s law, never natural law. But that’s a story for another time. Concerning this matter, here’s where they got me: Due to continued rain over the course of all those days that were cited in the street bureau’s written report, they had the excuse that no repair could be executed due to inclement weather and they could not endanger city road workers. I had all my ducks in a row, just to have them shot down by Elmer J. Fudd. We should be ashamed of ourselves that we continue to pay so much money for so little return out of our so-called public service representatives. I knew this would be frustrating from the beginning and it further proves how obsolete government is at all levels when we live in such a forward-moving and thinking world of innovation and advancement with cell phones almost the size of quarters and soon to be self driving cars and semi-trucks. Maybe that’s why all these seemingly bad things are going on at the federal level and appear so surreal as of late. It’s probably because it’s rightfully beginning to implode and all melt away, so the people can start to learn how to do right by one another rather than relying on fake laws and mommy/daddy government to take care of them with all that untraceable tax money. OK, I’m done now. Thanks for listening and a big thank you again for this website. It truly saved me a lot of time.

  13. Hey guys thank you for the information you providing here.
    Quick question can someone please tell me the number to contact city of LA in order to know if a pot hole was reported?
    Is there any online information?
    I lost a 200$ tire today and i’m mad as hell.
    Thank you for your help.

  14. Thanks for your info,I’m paying over 1,000 dollars for my front struts on my car due to potholes etcAmd I’m hoping the city will at least compensate me in someone

  15. You have a better chance getting paid if they think you are, or will hire, a lawyer. In order to got to small claims, you need to first serve ja public entity with a claim. YOU MUST READ THE CLAIM FORM AND DO WHAT IT STATES. LOOK AT GOV. CODE 835 re dangerous conditions.

    Dont just request records. They will not respond. You send a public records request…..the city website should tell you the procedure. Leave no doubt the area you are referencing. A picure or GPS Location help.

  16. I received an offer to get payed HALF OF MY BILL very soon after my accident.
    The reason WHY not paying in full is because it hadnt been reported (of course) BUT:
    – it was a huge one 3in deep must have been there for weeks.
    – not even ONE day after my accident it was fixed.
    – Bus Drivers (Fly Away knew about it and avoided driving on that side of the road, I would assume they called it in (?) to avoid damaging their buses.
    My pothole (they said) was in an area known for problems with potholes….

  17. Is the procedure the same to obtain compensation for damages when it comes to freeway potholes and areas where the pavement suddenly drops after bridges crossing the underlying streets?
    Also would my case still have a chance if my car has aftermarket suspension? The parts that were damaged were oem parts.
    Is the age of the vehicle taken into consideration? My car is exceptionally well cared for but it is a 2004.

  18. Excellent article. I used the suggestions on this site and filed a small claims lawsuit for a friend, whose Maserati that I was driving sustained major rim and tire damage on Coldwater Canyon south of Mulholland. I received a call from the City Attorney’s office 1 (one) day prior to the trial accepting liability and agreeing to pay the amount demanded in the small claims lawsuit. Thank you!

  19. As many others did I hit a large & deep pothole on northbound side of the left lane on Temescal Canyon Road in Pacific Palisades between PCH and Sunset on Dec 30th. I had to replace both from tires ( $430) and realign my steering ( $120). I was lucky I did not dent or break my rime(s). I was driving a BMW M3 with high definition titles.
    E.Bud Kling

  20. Hello my name is Sabreen Freeman on January /31/2022 time 2:00 a.m. my son and myself was driving down Georgia Street between Corkwood & Rolling wood Sstreet in the city of Vallejo Calif when all of a sudden we hit a big Pothole that cause my car to rivet and stop. there Wasn’t any signs or signals to see to Prevent anyone from hitting the pothole My son hit his head he is a Head trauma Patients the pothole damage my car on the left front side wheel of my car. my car no longer is drivable i had to have my car towed my AAA Roadsevice ten miles with in the area my contact information is (510) 938-7014

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