Monday, February 8, 2010
Help Me Howard: Pothole
You are driving down the road, watching oncoming traffic and bam! You hit a pothole in the road, and it ruins a tire. Who is responsible? You or the government group that maintains the road? Good question. Here is Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- Nikki has loved taking pictures since she was a child.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "When I was 12, my dad got me a camera, and I became the family photographer."
Photographing everything from trips to Fairchild Gardens to vacations in Paris.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "I was always behind the camera, taking the pictures."
Unfortunately, she recently added a picture of a pothole to her collection.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "And then I hear this big bang, and my dashboard said 'flat tire.'"
Nikki had just turned onto 24th Street in Miami when she hit the pothole.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "I got out, I saw the car starting to move over to its left, both tires were just flat, slashed."
Two tires ruined. Nikki was not hurt, but looking at the size of the pothole did leave her amazed.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "If I stood in it, then the rim would have come up to my ankle, so it was pretty deep."
While Nikki waited for a tow truck, she watched other cars dodge the hole or go through it. Neighbors told her that had been going on for awhile.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "And I asked him does this happen a lot, and he said, 'Yeah, people are always going in it, and I said, why hasn't it been reported, and he said he didn't know, we just go around it."
Nikki then headed to the shop where the news got worse: $1,229 for repairs and two new tires.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "That's a lot of damage and a lot of money."
Since 24th Street is a Miami road, Nikki filed a claim with the city, which quickly denied it.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "I wrote a lot of letters to the city, and they wrote me back, and the final answer was, 'No, we can't help you because we didn't know the hole was there.'"
Nikki doesn't agree. It is the city's road, it is their job to maintain it, and she says it should be their fault if they don't.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "I just can't sit by and let something like that happen. I mean, that's a pothole, something the city should have been responsible for."
Well, can a government agency refuse to pay for damage caused on their road? By claiming they didn't know there was a pothole on their road, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "No, the law says the agency is responsible for the damage if they knew about it and did nothing or they should have known about it, and by that I mean they have to have a system in place to check for damaged roads."
We then asked for reports of potholes on that street for the last six months, according to Miami City records, there were none, said the claims administrator for the city. Since they were not aware of the pothole, they were not responsible. A city official told us they do have crews that are supposed to look for potholes, but with more that 800 miles of roads to maintain, they cannot find every one, and when they find out about a pothole they do repair it.
Howard Finkelstein: "The city's explanations are valid if they have proof that they find potholes, report it and the city fixes it. If they don't have the proof, it's not a system at all. The problem is few people have the free time and money to go through all the city records to determine if the system is running properly."
The road has now been repaired, but Nikki says she can't believe that potholes can sit there so long.
Nikki Kakouris Gonzalez: "Some little kid could fall and fall on their face or somebody on a motorcycle could get hurt. Something has to be done about that."
Patrick Fraser: "Of course, if you see a pothole report it. The problem is determining who maintains the road: the city, the county, the state? When in doubt, contact the city, and if it's not their's, they can tell you who to call."
All your roads paved with problems? Flat out of patience? Contact us, we'll use our street-smarts and find legal avenues to help you.
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