Thursday, August 24, 2006
Help Me Howard: Pothole
If you drive you have seen it. A pothole in the road. A construction zone that is dangerous. But what happens if you don't see it, hit it and damage your car? Who is responsible for the repairs and how do you collect? It's not easy. Unless you call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When he was looking for a home, Damian knew Miami's Morningside was for him.
"Because it's a beautiful place to live. I like the fact that its historic. Some of the homes are very unique and old."
It’s also secluded with only two roads in and out.
And right now both of those roads lead to a Biscayne Boulevard construction project.
"I was at this intersection, behind me, and there was a huge puddle there."
When Damian pulled out that morning he says he had no idea the water was covering a hole 18 inches deep. Unable to drive around it, he drove through it and heard a loud bang.
"I noticed the undercarriage of the my car was kind of hanging down, and there were just bare wires hanging out the front of my car."
Some sensors went haywire. This one shows its minus 40 degrees.
So Damian drove home and wired it back together.
"Yeah the bumper fell and was dragging right in front of the wheels."
The Florida Department of Transportation told Damian to contact the road builders... who came to his house a few days later.
"And the engineer remembered that day; he remembered that giant puddle here. He said he ordered a truck of gravel several hours later because they received a number of complaints from people trying to exit the neighborhood here."
That day Damian thought they had agreed to pay for the damage.
"He told me, ‘We are just going to have to get an estimate to figure out if it’s in our deductible or not and we will pay for it.’ I said, ‘Great, that was easy.’"
Too easy. Damian got two estimates and turned them in to the road crew’s insurance company.
Now, after driving a damaged car for three months, he says the insurance company is telling him they won't pay for the damage.
"That they are trying to dispute it and saying they were within F-DOT protocol for the height differential between the unpaved portion and paved portion."
The repair bill is about $1100.
Damian says the loss of the money doesn't irritate him as much as the principal of the issue.
"Well, it's the principle that I am a homeowner, a property owner here in Miami, and I'm getting any sort of answer. I am getting stalled, no one is telling me what my rights are."
And what are his rights? If you hit a pothole in a road, who is responsible: you or someone else?
To find out, Damain called Help Me Howard.
Howard Finkelstein: "If a company takes on road construction they have a responsibility to maintain the road in a safe condition and warn the public about any hidden dangers like a large pothole covered with water. Of course, mistakes will happen and when they do, they have to pay to correct them."
To their credit, the construction company was very helpful.
Their representative told me it was a disputable claim.
That Damian came out a closed street and should have gone to the other exit out of Morningside.
He told me they didn't have to pay, but they would.
That he had told their insurance company to write Damian a check to repair his car.
Now, if your car is damaged on the road, Howard says do a couple of things...
Howard Finkelstein: "First of all, get a police report. Then call the agency in charge of the road to put in a claim for damages. Usually, the police officer will be able to tell you whether it's the state, the county or the city who maintains that road."
It is good news for Damian, who says considering all the work the crews have had to do on Biscayne Boulevard, he has been very impressed with them except for that one day.
"They are doing a great job otherwise in terms of keeping it up to speed."
Patrick Fraser: "Actually, considering how much digging they do, it is amazing that there aren't more hazards on those road projects.
"By the way, when the insurance company tried to avoid paying, they said the pothole was within the Department of Transportation’s protocol for potholes. A DOT spokesman told me they have no such protocol, so we have no idea what the insurance company was talking about. But they did mail Damian's check for the repairs, or so they say."
Holed up in a rough stretch? Need someone to construct a solution? Contact us. We aren't good with bulldozers, but we can smooth out the road for you.
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