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Carolyn Freundlich/Medill

Nick Tim points to pothole damages on a 2013 Hyundai.

City to reimburse (not all) pothole damages

by Carolyn Freundlich
Jan 30, 2014

Nick Tim stood smoking a cigarette surrounded by cars with cracked rims, blown tires and destroyed engines.

He puffed slowly and recalled a recent customer, a frantic one who hit a pothole on North Ashland Avenue Wednesday. The oil pan cracked and the engine ceased. The car was totaled. Angrily the customer asked if he could pay after the pothole reimbursement claim was paid to him by the city.

“Everybody asks that,” said Tim, owner of Auto Repair for Less in Lakeview. “I say no, you have to pay first.”

That is a common assumption: If your car is damaged or destroyed by a pothole the city will pay for repairs. The problem is, that isn't necessarily true.

No one will be paid for the full cost of repairs, according to Committee on Finance spokesman Donald Quinlan. Some will get partial compensation while others nothing at all.

As for the typical percentage of total repair reimbursed: “I’m not going to comment on that," Quinlan said. "Just that a settlement is not the full amount.”

Since the start of the new year City Hall has received “well over a hundred” claims and expects "over 1,000" for 2014, city clerk spokesman Pat Corcoran said.

This is compared to 1,346 claims processed in 2013 and 992 the year before.

Last year the Committee on Finance approved $181,217 in payments on 754 pothole claims, Quinlan said.

“Everyone comes in expecting the city to pay for it,” Tim said. “I don’t know why people try to blame the city.“

Tim criticized drivers for not avoiding potholes, even though those potholes have been generating business.

Potholes typically damage tires, rims, control arms and suspension systems. The cost of repairs, including labor, can run up to $600-700 at Auto Repair for Less, Tim said.

"This one will cost more," said Tim, pointing to a blue 2013 Hyundai, "because it's a new car."

The Hyundai came in Tuesday, after hitting a pothole and bending the right front tire and control arm. Tim was asked to write on the receipt additional maintenance that wasn't needed.

"He wanted to get more money, I say no," Tim said. "I don't want any problems. The city will look to see what he does on [the] car."