We've all seen them on the side of the roads after a winter 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 snow from the snowplow as it cleared the road. It can be a frustrating situation.

But 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.

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. The plow drivers know what they're doing and it's rare that the plow blade takes out the mailbox. The heavy wet snow being thrown by it is the usual culprit.

Jeff Parsons - Townsquare Media
Jeff Parsons - Townsquare Media

So what can you do to prevent this from happening? The first step is to make sure your mailbox is at the correct height and distance from the road.

The 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 to 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 hit, so concrete, stone or heavy metal posts are out.

Windham Public Works recently posted on their Facebook page sharing how plows work when they throw snow. They recommend you test your mailbox before the snow flies by wiggling it side to side. If it moves, see if there are any screws loose that need tightening or if any of the wood is rotting.

You can also make a slush blocker of wood that acts as a shield for your mailbox, or you can buy one online.

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. But as much as you'd like to be angry at the snow plow driver, they are only doing their job to keep the streets safe and they don't want to take out your mailbox either.

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