When You Destroy State Property, You Pay
If you are found at fault for an accident and you destroy state property such as a light pole or road sign, you should expect a bill from your state’s Department of Transportation (DoT).
States are very good at collecting on these bills and will likely take legal action against you if you don’t pay up. Your car insurance’s property liability coverage will cover any damage to another party’s property. That includes the state’s property, however if your insurance doesn’t cover all the damages, you will be liable for the rest.
State’s will typically seek to collect any monies owed them as early as 30 days after they send out a bill. Many will turn drivers over to collections and some states will even suspend licenses of delinquent motorists. Several states are more lenient about how much they bill realizing that the average driver can’t afford to cover huge costs. In these cases, they may bill a reduced amount but will still expect it to be paid.
Sometimes you can decide whether or how much of the bill your liability insurance pays. If the amount is very small, such as to replace a road sign, you probably will have the option of paying for it all out-of-pocket in order to avoid a costly rate hike.
It’s best to avoid damaging state property when at all possible and remember also that even if you don’t damage something directly, if you are found to be the root cause of the accident that led to the damage, you will be typically liable for the damages.