What causes potholes?

Potholes occur when snow and ice melt as part of Michigan's seasonal freeze-thaw cycles. The resulting water then seeps beneath the pavement through cracks caused by the wear and tear of traffic. As the temperatures cool to freezing at night, the water becomes ice and expands below the pavement, forcing the pavement to rise. As the weight of traffic continues to pound on this raised section – and the temperatures once again rise above freezing – a shallow divot occurs under the surface and the pavement breaks, forming a pothole. A pothole is typically fixed by cleaning out the loose debris and filling it with hot and cold asphalt patch.

See how a pothole is born

More about potholes


How do I file a claim for damages to my vehicle?

Please be advised that the majority of claims are denied under governmental immunity laws, MCL 691.1402 and MCL 691.1403.  

Highway defect claims (including potholes) should only be submitted to MDOT if damage occurred on a state trunkline (M, I or US route), not local or county roads. If you have questions about road jurisdiction, contact your local MDOT region office or county road commission

To file a claim with the appropriate region office, follow the procedure below:

  • Download Form 3600
  • Print and completely fill out the form
  • Sign and notarize the form
    Note: Incomplete and unnotarized forms will be returned
  • Attach supporting documentation
  • Keep a copy for your records
  • Return form and documentation to the MDOT region office located in the county where the incident occurred

Claims under $1,000
Upon receipt of your damage claim under $1,000, MDOT will investigate the incident. Investigations typically take at least 90 days. Please be advised that the majority of defect claims are denied under governmental immunity laws. 

Claims of $1,000 or more
If your alleged damage claim is $1,000 or more, you can recover only by filing a lawsuit against MDOT. You should consult a private attorney if you want to pursue this option.