Pothole damage might be hard to claim

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by Janet Roach, 13News

WVEC.com

Posted on February 24, 2010 at 7:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Oct 17 at 2:24 PM

CHESAPEAKE -- Barry Amos wants someone to pay for the $1,500 damage done to his Chevy Impala after hitting a pothole on I-264.

Potholes appeared across Hampton Roads in the weeks following the big snow on January 30.

Amos is one of about 300 people who've filed claims, asking the state to pay for the damage.

"I tried to avoid the pothole. There were three other cars on the side with flat tires," he said.

Amos says it was February 6 when he hit the pothole on the westbound lanes near the Ballentine Boulevard exit. He says he lost tire pressure and the rims bent.

Repairmen at A-1 Auto told him there was no way to fix the problem and his tires and rims needed to be replaced. So he filed a claim against the private contractor, TME Enterprises, which is paid $6,407,544 a year by the Va. Dept. of Transportation to maintain the roads.

A little more than a week later, Amos got a rejection letter from TME stating, "With the impact of the weather event and the effort we have put forth, we do not consider ourselves to be negligent in our attention to the pothole situation. TME has been in full compliance with its contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation."

"What if I go on the Interstate and stop and repair my own hole. Would I be in the wrong because I don't want damage to my car? Someone has to be liable," Amos contends.

So far, no one has won a pothole claim against TME. According to VDOT, TME has 48 hours to repair a pothole only after it's been reported by a motorist. If a vehicle is damaged after that 48-hour period, TME can be held liable.

In Amos's case, the hole he hit had been repaired within the 48-hour period but the temporary fix wasn't enough to keep the roadway from re-opening.
Once a hole reappears, TME has another 48 hours to repair it after it's been reported.

"It is true that the cold-mix asphalt is not a permanent fix for these roadway problems," explains Lauren Hansen, a spokeswoman for VDOT.

Hansen says there are four crews repairing potholes almost every day and they repair about 800 holes a day.

She adds, "Crews are having to repatch the same area over and over again."

Hansen says the area on I-264 near Ballentine is one area where crews have worked almost every day since the January snow. She encourages motorists to go online and report potholes so they can get patched faster.

(link for reporting holes http://www.virginiadot.org/travel/citizen.asp)

Still, this is not comforting news to Amos, who hasn't driven his car since it was damaged and is not sure when he'll have to money to make the repairs.

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