Pothole Pitfalls

It's a noise every driver dreads-- the sound of your car hitting a pothole. Shirley Moore has heard it.

"The sound of your rim hitting the pavement and going please don't damage the rim," Moore said.

She snapped photos of the monster that wrecked her car in Northfield.

"It had been there a long time," she said. "There was no reason for it to be a pothole."

Reporter Jennifer Costa: What do you think about potholes?

Christopher Green: I am not a fan.

"Fact of life in Vermont," driver Mark Magiera said.

It seems everyone has had a run-in with a pothole.

"Driving a dark, stormy night and hit a big pothole and threw out some struts on my car," motorist Jeffrey Ferrell said.

"You just watch where you are driving," Magiera said.

Remember Shirley Moore? She says some potholes unavoidable. Especially at night when you can't see them.

"It immediately popped the tire," Moore said.

Her repair bill came to $262.74. Which got us thinking, since Route 64 is state road, should Moore have to pay? Or should Vermont pick up the tab?

"I felt that it was their fault," Moore said.

"We try to be fair," said Bill Duchac, who works in the Vermont Office of Risk Management.

Duchac is Vermont's pothole guy. He decides whether you get paid.

"If you go 30 feet off road and run into a tree stump, I'm not going to be responsible. But if it happens on the roadway and we're responsible, we'll own it," Duchac said.

Caleb Mix sent us photos of a huge pothole in Calais that blew out his front and rear tires and damaged his suspension. His bill came to $100. His claim was denied.

"I am very sympathetic to the poor first person who hits that pothole and blows out a tire and we have to tell them sorry," Duchac said.

The state gets 72 hours to fix a pothole. The clock starts ticking after the first driver reports it. But on a busy road, that's hundreds of potential victims who won't get paid. In just the time I've been talking 14 drivers hit that hole.

"It's all based on negligence," Duchac explained. "And negligence as one of the elements has to be prior knowledge so that you have an opportunity to fix it."

We hit the streets telling drivers what we learned.

Jennifer Costa: You can actually get your repair bill paid for by the state.

Christopher Green: Sure, sounds like a good deal.

Most drivers don't follow through or don't know filing a claim is even an option. We checked state records. Only 18 drivers filed pothole damage claims against the state since last October. Ten were denied. Shirley Moore was one of the lucky eight Vermont covered.

"I filled out the claim form and that was all I had to do," she said. "It was that easy."

If your claim gets denied and you really think the state is wrong, you can appeal to the Vermont Transportation Board.

Click here for more information and the forms.

Now, we are only talking about state roads. If you run into a pothole on a town, village or city road, you can still file a claim but the Vermont League of Cities and Towns would handle your case.

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