(KTXL) — Following a series of storms and flooded roads, the appearance of potholes is practically inevitable. 

If your car gets damaged by potholes caused by the storms, is your city or county responsible? 

According to Sacramento County, you may file a claim for vehicle damage caused by a pothole, but not all claims get settled. The county’s website says that only 14% of pothole claims have been settled since Jan. 1, 2000. 

The reason for the low number is that public entities are not responsible for damages caused by “acts of nature,” the county said. “Acts of nature” includes storms, weather damage, cracks in sidewalks, potholes in roadways, and flood damage.

The county recommends filing a claim under your auto insurance policy for damages. 

“For the public entity to be legally liable, the claimant must establish that the public entity had prior notice that a dangerous condition existed at that location, and the public entity failed to repair the dangerous condition in a reasonable period of time,” the county’s website reads. 

When it comes to repairing potholes, the policy for the Sacramento County Department of Transportation is to fix “all potholes as soon as possible,” according to the county’s website. 

What causes potholes? 

Potholes, which vary in size and shape, are caused by a variety of factors such as heat, rain, and traffic loading. 

According to the City of West Sacramento, which is in Yolo County, potholes begin after snow or rain seeps into the soil below the road surface. Then, the moisture freezes when temperatures drop and causes the ground to expand and push up the pavement. 

When the temperature rises, the ground returns to a normal level, but the pavement often remains raised, creating a gap between the pavement and the ground below it. 

When vehicles drive over the pavement, the surface cracks and falls into the hollow space due to the extra weight coming from the vehicle. 

How are potholes fixed? 

According to the City of West Sacramento, pothole repairs fall into three categories and are fixed depending on the location, the cause of the pothole, and the severity. 

The three categories are:

  • Pothole repair
  • Base repair
  • Rehabilitation

The pothole repair process involves filling the missing area with material to replace the pavement. The process is different for areas with light and heavy traffic, as areas with light traffic use cold patches for quick application access. Hot mix asphalt is used for high-traffic areas. 

To replace the base, the pavement where water was allowed through is removed by road maintenance staff. Once the pavement is removed, hot mix asphalt is placed and a roller is used to compact the asphalt. 

Sometimes the pavement may require rehabilitation if the pavement has multiple potholes and failures, but that process is expensive. During the rehabilitation process, the asphalt is removed, the sub-base material is replaced and a new layer of hot mix asphalt is applied.

What to do if you encounter a pothole

Due to the potential cause of damage to your vehicle, driving directly over potholes should be avoided. 

Here are a few tips from West Sacramento whenever you encounter a pothole: 

  • Do not brake directly over the pothole if the pothole cannot be avoided
  • Slow down before reaching the pothole to reduce potential shock and damage
  • If the pothole can be avoided, use the mirrors to check for other vehicles and pedestrians before driving around the pothole
  • Keep tires properly inflated to protect them from damage
  • Be cautious when driving over a pothole filled with water, since the depth of the pothole is unknown