One of the most interesting things about practicing law is that you never know what you are going to get. I’ve been at it for a while, though, and I’ve noticed a pattern of “seasonal claims.” Here are two common ones and my advice on handling them:
Chewed up lawns, broken fences, toppled mailboxes . . . This kind of damage is as ubiquitous as a Patriots playoff bid. If your property is damaged, call your town manager or mayor’s office and ask about the procedure for filing a claim. They may require you to submit a form and auto-dated photographs. If they suggest you don’t have a claim or they are not responsible, send a certified letter summarizing your conversation and seeking compensation. Follow up weekly with letters until you get the desired result. Prepare to dig in your heels.
Does a pothole on your street have you and your wheels bent out of shape? First you need to determine who is responsible for the road — the state or your city/town. If you don’t know, call your local department of public works. Once you find out who is responsible, notify them that you will be filing a claim and find out the process. Make sure to send a follow-up letter that gives the who, what, where, and when, being as precise as possible. For example: “My car struck a pothole in front of 111 Main St. on Feb. 26, 2016, at approximately 12:30 p.m. Please kindly accept this letter as formal notice of a claim for personal property damage.” If you can do so safely, use a ruler and take an auto-dated photograph showing the depth of the pothole. Submit auto-dated photos of the damage to your vehicle as well.
Please note: State law (Chapter 84, Section 15) limits the amount you can recover to $5,000. If you do run into a pothole and the damage is extensive, I suggest using your insurance policy as your first line of coverage then turning to the entity responsible for the road for further remedy.
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