WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Dodging pot holes can be brutal and pricey if you pop a tire or bend a rim. But is it the state’s responsibility to pay for damage to your vehicle? The Investigators found out just how much red-tape you have to go through to file a claim and is it worth it?
Can you be taking a gamble when you drive on Connecticut roads.
Derrick Stec says he was driving down route 82 in Wallingford when he ended up in a manhole minefield, “I knew right away, I heard an explosion so I knew that the tire had been caught and I could feel the car sink down.”
Stec tried to dodge the inevitable. He says, “I was kind of swerving in and out of these manhole covers, I saw it come up at the last second and I just struck it and it was too late.”
Derrick told the Investigators he had over $900 in damage to his vehicle and says he had all the evidence to back-up his claim and that the state should pay for it. Right after the damage happened Stec filed a claim. “Right away I took pictures. I got all my information together and I call the state and asked them what to do. And they said there is a procedure.”
But, like so many others his claim went nowhere. The DOT told the investigators his claim was denied because all the markings and signs were in place. They also added that any driver paying attention and going a safe speed shouldn’t have problems.
The Investigators found since 2010 to 2014 a total of 2,708 claims were filed with the state and only 80 of those drivers were reimbursed. That’s just 3 percent.
Kevin Nursick, spokesman with the Connecticut Department of Transportation says “the bar is very very very high for you to win a claim against the state.”
State Representative, Tony Guerrera tells News 8 “anyone could say they hit a pothole and has damage to their cars and we would be paying claims left and right.”
Stec said he did everything right, taking pictures after the incident and filing the claim promptly. “I’m still pretty angry about it. I mean, it’s defiantly their responsibility to make their roadways safe no matter if it’s milled, no matter what, they still need to make it passable for people.”
Still, The DOT says they’re not held liable because of state statue 13a-144. Nursick says, “Overwhelmingly they are not going to get reimbursed for damage to vehicle on a roadway again not because the DOT likes the rejected stamp because that’s the way the rules are set up.”
Rep. Guerrera tells us there’s room to change that. “The thing I learned as a legislature that anything can be changed and all the laws change everyday.”
As reported above, since 2010 the state of Connecticut has taken 2,708 claims for reimbursement because of something that was on the road or something that happened on the road. Here’s a look at the claims:
But again, as you can see below, the chances of getting a payment from the state are slim.
Here is part of what the Connecticut law says:
Sec. 13a-144. Damages for injuries sustained on state highways or sidewalks. Any person injured in person or property through the neglect or default of the state or any of its employees by means of any defective highway, bridge or sidewalk which it is the duty of the Commissioner of Transportation to keep in repair, or by reason of the lack of any railing or fence on the side of such bridge or part of such road which may be raised above the adjoining ground so as to be unsafe for travel or, in case of the death of any person by reason of any such neglect or default, the executor or administrator of such person, may bring a civil action to recover damages sustained thereby against the commissioner in the Superior Court.
There are specific instructions someone must follow just to submit a claim, let alone have that claim approved.
In New Haven, the instructions on the form say you have to file a claim within 24 hours. “Failure to file such incident reports may result in the denial of your claim,” the city’s form says.