If a Snowplow Hits Your Mailbox in Maine, Does the Town or State Have to Replace It?
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions or personal experiences.
We've all seen them on the side of the roads after a storm. A mailbox tilted to the side, pulled off its mount, or worse yet, completely knocked over and buried in the snow. This isn't the work of kids playing mailbox baseball and knocking mailboxes off the bats. This is what's left of mailboxes after being hit by the snowplow as it cleared the road. It can be a frustrating situation.
I saw several mailboxes after the last storm we had in Maine that were damaged or completely on the ground. The fact that the storm in Southern Maine was a snow and heavy rain event, making what the plows had to move much heavier than usual, didn't help. It made me wonder though, do the towns and Maine DOT that plow the roads have to replace those mailboxes. I was surprised by the answer.
According to the Maine DOT website on mailbox policy, if a snowplow damages or takes out your mailbox, you are responsible for replacing it. And on top of that, you could be responsible for any damages to the plow. Here's the explanation from the website:
The mailbox is installed entirely at the owner’s risk. In other words, if the mailbox incurs damage during any sort of highway operations or maintenance, the property owner is not entitled to replacement or compensation. In fact, if the mailbox was not installed in accordance with the applicable standards as stated above, the owner may even be held liable for injuries or damages that may have been incurred as a result.
So there it is. Mailbox down? You fix it. Some towns may, out of their own kindness, replace the mailbox, especially if the plow driver thinks it might have been their fault. However, there is no requirement for them to do so.
And what about those "applicable standards" they mention? United States Postal Service Standards say that mailboxes must be installed so the bottom of the mailbox is between 41 inches and 45 inches above the road shoulder, but the MaineDOT recommends they be closer 45 inches to minimize the chance that the plow hits it. Also the post it is mounted on must be able to break away if it, so concrete, stone or heavy metal posts are out.
So, if your mailbox is taken out by the snowplow, it's on you to fix it. If it's a town plow, a call to the town office to ask couldn't hurt though. You may be surprised.