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The New Jersey Department of Transportation wants drivers to know that it is taking steps to address the dangerous pothole conditions that have marred New Jersey roads following a particularly harsh 2014-2015 winter.

The solution? Throughout March and April, the Department of Transportation will employ 67 crews and 13 "pothole killer" trucks to fill in the estimated 300,000 potholes clustered across the state. While the efforts will cost taxpayers approximately $4 million, officials are claiming that the end results will be worth the trouble.

According to Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox, "This winter has been particularly difficult. When you have a lot of ice, it causes more damage to the roads." Tracy Noble, a spokeswoman with AAA Mid-Atlantic, reinforces the importance of maintaining roads for vehicular safety, stating "[Potholes] can obviously jar the motorist but they can also do tons of damage to vehicles."

Who Is Responsible For The Damage Caused By Potholes?

While many roads across New Jersey are in fact overseen by counties, local towns, or the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, the New Jersey Treasury Department can be held responsible under certain circumstances for failure to adequately maintain roads. For instance, if the state knew about a pothole but failed to make any repairs within a reasonable period of time, they can be held liable for the resulting damage.

"Any time you can file a claim and try to recoup some money it is definitely worth your time," says Noble. Still, that doesn't mean recovery will be guaranteed. In 2014, New Jersey paid out on just 12 of the 2,655 claims it received for automobiles damaged as a result of a pothole. According to the Treasury Department, many of the incidents which led to claims being filed actually took place on county or township-owned roads, preventing the driver from recovering any money.

Furthermore, prior notice of the dangerous condition is required, and adequate time must have elapsed for the state to fix the dangerous condition. Such a determination is made on a case-by-case basis. Treasury spokesman Joseph Perone explains, "A repair may be impossible to make during snow events, when crews are fully deployed in snow removal activities."

What You Can Do To Stay Protected

First, drive safely. AAA Mid-Atlantic suggests a number of ways to do so, including:

  • Keeping an eye on traffic patterns, which might alert you to possible potholes or road damage ahead
  • Watching out for ice or water that may be concealing a pothole
  • Avoiding swerving, which may lead to damage far greater than might be caused by a pothole
  • Driving the speed limit

If you do find a pothole, you can report it using this form on the New Jersey Department of Transportation website. And lastly, if you are unable to avoid the pothole and it causes damage to you or your vehicle, you can protect your rights by speaking to an attorney at Smith & Doran. Smith & Doran specializes in auto accident cases, and your case will be handled by an expert. Call now for a free consultation.

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