It's one of the most cringe-worthy moments while driving on New Jersey's roads — going over a pothole you never saw coming.

Maudib, ThinkStock

For the rest of the ride, you're praying your vehicle came away unscathed.

But for hundreds — sometimes thousands — of unlucky motorists per year in the Garden State, that road crater has caused some costly damage.

And the folks who operate the roads aren't so willing to help them out with the financial hit.

Motorists made 431 pothole damage claims related to state highways in 2016. Less than 3 percent were accepted as valid claims and paid out, according to the New Jersey Department of the Treasury.

Just 10 were paid for a total of $2,740.33. In 2015, 26 claims out of 1,025 were paid. In 2016, when the state received 2,647 damage claims due to potholes, less than 2 percent — or 39 — were successful.

According to a treasury spokesperson, the state is immune from pothole claims unless the claimant could "demonstrate that the state was aware of the pothole, had more than sufficient time and resources to repair it, yet failed to make the repair."

The same goes for county roads. Monmouth County paid for two of six pothole damage claims in 2016; the others were denied, according to a county spokesperson. As of June 12 of this year, six of seven claims were paid. Three claimants hit the same pothole.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which operates the Garden State Parkway and Turnpike, received 150 pothole damage claims in 2016, and paid 25 for a total of $8,657.76. In 2015, 29 of 268 claims were covered, and in 2014, six claims out of 226.

The South Jersey Transportation Authority, which runs the Atlantic City Expressway, received zero claims for pothole in damage in 2016 or 2015, a spokesperson said. The one claim received in 2014 was paid out for $500.

The state Department of Transportation repaired approximately 181,000 potholes on state highways in fiscal year 2017, spokesman Steve Schapiro told New Jersey 101.5.

"We'll do pothole repair year-round. The most active repair season is during the spring as we're coming out of winter," he said.

Potholes encountered on state roads can be reported in two ways:

"Whenever you report a pothole, it's best to identify exactly where it is — the name of the highway that you're on, or the route number, and any cross street that you can identify, or a mile marker," Schapiro said.

All reports are forwarded to a regional office and the pothole is placed on their work list, along with litter pickup, mowing and other tasks, Schapiro said.

Approximately 2,500 pothole reports were submitted to DOT in fiscal year 2017.

County hotlines for pothole reports can be found here.

Maintenance issues, such as potholes, can be reported to the Turnpike Authority using this form.

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