NH Law About... Potholes

Introduction to... Potholes

Updated May 12, 2017.

We were asked whether or not a driver could make a muncipality pay for damages to a motor vehicle caused by a pothole. The NOLO article on vehicle damage due to poor road conditions will serve as a general introduction to the topic. For the New Hampshire perspective, look at the NH Municipal Association's presentation linked to below, or find A Hard Road to Travel or the NH Practice Series books Local Government Law and Personal Injury Tort and Insurance Practice in your local library. Chapter 27 of Local Government Law discusses municipal liability for torts and defective roadways specifically in §1066 and  Personal Injury Tort and Insurance Practice discusses municipal and sovereign immunity in Chapter 9. A Hard Road to Travel discusses the liability of municipalities to travelers. All these New Hampshire sources refer to New Hampshire cases and statutes. 

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.

Read about... Potholes


New Hampshire Municipal Association. Avoiding the Road to Liability. June 10, 2016

Link verified on: May 12, 2017


Nolo. Vehicle Damage Due to Poor Road Conditions: Who is Liable?

Link verified on: May 12, 2017

Bottom line: If you are going to make a successful claim against the government for damage to your vehicle caused by poor road conditions, you will have to prove two things: the government knew about the poor road condition (or should reasonably have known about it), and the government did not repair the poor road condition within a reasonable amount of time.   GO>


A Hard Road to Travel : New Hampshire Law of Local Highways, Streets and Trails / by Margaret M.L. Byrnes, ed. (New Hampshire Municipal Association 2015).

What is a public highway? -- How are local highways created? -- New Hampshire's highway classification system -- Discontinuance of highways -- Special categories of layouts and roads -- Liability, regulation and maintenance duties -- Roads, streets and land use planning -- Class VI highways -- Trails -- Bridges -- Highway drainage -- Highway funding -- Utility lines and other private enterprise highway uses -- Sidewalks, parking and streetlights.   GO>

Link verified on: May 18, 2017

Local Government Law / Peter J. Loughlin. LexisNexis, 3rd ed. 2011  GO>

Link verified on: July 13, 2017

Personal injury : tort and insurance practice by Richard B McNamara. LexisNexis. 4th ed. 2015  GO>

Link verified on: July 28, 2017

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Read the law about... Potholes


RSA 230. State Highways   GO>

Link verified on: December 18, 2017

RSA 231. Cities, Towns and Village District Highways  GO>

Link verified on: December 18, 2017

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated

Link verified on: June 29, 2018

Find the New Hampshire statutes in print at libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>


125 N.H. 34 (1984). Hartman v. Town of Hooksett

Link verified on: May 12, 2017

In certain circumstances, a town may be liable for injuries occurring on roads under its control, but not for injuries on roads over which it exercises no control.   GO>

140 N.H. 417 (1995). Bergeron v. City of Manchester

Link verified on: May 12, 2017

Neither the city nor the State enjoys full sovereign immunity from tort liability. In fact, immunity is the exception, rather than the rule, in tort cases. Government entities are immune from liability for conduct that involves the exercise of a legislative or judicial function, or the exercise of an executive or planning function involving the making of a basic policy decision which is characterized by the exercise of a high degree of official judgment or discretion.   GO>

144 N.H. 491 (1999). Bowden v. Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Transportation

Link verified on: May 12, 2017

In Merrill v. City of Manchester, 114 N.H. 722, we held that municipal immunity, a judicially created doctrine that had become outdated and outmoded, should be sharply limited. While abrogating the common law doctrine except for two specific categories of claims, we recognized that “the legislature has authority to specify the terms and conditions of suit against cities and towns, limit the amount of recovery, or take any other action which in its wisdom it may deem proper.”   GO>

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Reports

Link verified on: May 18, 2018

Find the New Hampshire Reports in libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>


City of Nashua, N.H. Pothole Information

Link verified on: May 12, 2017

An example of one city's pothole information page. Check with your town or city for information on how to report potholes.   GO>

New Hampshire. Dept. Transportation. Highway Maintenance

Link verified on: May 12, 2017

Or call 603.271.3734 to report a pothole on a state-maintained road.   GO>

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: June 29, 2018

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>

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