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.Hugh Fitzpatrick is the founding partner of New England Title and Fitzpatrick & Associates PC, a Tewksbury-based law firm specializing in real estate conveyancing. Send your questions to Address@globe.com.