Welcome to pothole season in Missoula. A time of changing temperatures, the jolt of sudden surprise, and often ruined tires and wheels.

But what you may not know is that there is a system in place for you to file a claim for pothole damage in Missoula. And although there's no guarantee you'll see cash, at least you're able to complain.

At the same time, the city welcomes people to let them know when pothole pounding becomes a problem on their street.

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This has gotten expensive

Pothole damage is nothing new. However, nowadays with expensive aluminum wheels, low-profile tires, and all-wheel drive systems clunking into a chuck hole is no small matter. A few winters ago, potholes were breaking out faster than a 13-year-old on chocolate, and a pothole ruined one of the tires on my WRX, which because of the all-wheel drive, forced me to buy a complete set of tires to keep everything matched up. That's kept 3 still-good tires in my garage.

Claims can be filed

The city does have a mechanism for filing a damage claim with the Risk Management Office. The form can be filled out online, and you'll need to attach photos of the damage.

Proving damage can be tough. The info is forwarded to the Municipal Interlocal Authority, which is the risk management agency for towns and cities across Montana. They'll assign an investigator, and if you "recover damages", you have to show "the city breached a duty of ordinary care" which was the "direct and immediate cause of the damage."

Another option

Setting aside the question of damage, the proactive approach where the city asks for help is for you to report potholes, so they can be fixed before you, or your neighbors, end up with hundreds of dollars in damage. The Street Division commits to try and fix those potholes within 24 hours.

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Gallery Credit: Katherine Gallagher