More victims say state denied claims after massive pothole damages cars along I-285
A metro Atlanta woman filed her own open records requests looking for answers after her damages claim with the state of Georgia was denied.
“The state has a duty to ensure their roads are safe. That’s it in a nutshell and they haven’t done that,” Nichelle Brown told Channel 2 consumer investigator Justin Gray.
Brown said she watched our Channel 2 Action News investigation in February on damage claim denials and realized not only did she get the same claim denial from the state as the women in the story, but she also even hit the same road hazard the same day as one of them.
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“Once I saw that and saw that it wasn’t just me, I became even more angry,” Brown said.
If your car is damaged on a state-maintained road you can file a claim asking them to pay for repairs. But Gray learned the majority of those claims are denied.
Channel 2 Action News made an open records request for state claims data after Gray started hearing similar complaints from metro Atlanta drivers asking for help.
An open records request for a year’s worth of claims data from the Georgia Department of Administrative Services revealed the state paid out only about 30% of claims made about Georgia roads.
Out of 1,486 total closed claims, the state paid in only 378 cases. In those complaints, drivers mentioned potholes nearly 700 times.
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Attorney Bruce Hagen has taken a particular interest in potholes since he often represents bicyclists who’ve been hurt on the roads.
Hagen told Gray that state officials know it’s really complicated and difficult to win a court challenge in these types of cases even with the help of an attorney.
“The DOAS has no incentive to pay your claim. And if they deny it, your only recourse is to file a lawsuit. The state does not feel like they have any real worry that you’re going to succeed in that sort of a case,” Hagen said. “Their attitude is ‘go ahead and sue us. We’re the state, we always win.’”
Nichelle brown and Tabitha Boyce received the same denial explanation from the state when their cars were both damaged on the same day at I-285 near Camp Creek Parkway. They were told that DOT had no prior notice of the road hazard.
“It was something that they had to be aware of. They just hadn’t done anything about it,” Boyce said.
Nichelle Brown filed an open records request because she thought the same thing.
She found that two days before the accidents a customer reported “a huge three-foot pothole”.
Another woman reported that her son hit the “famous pothole” and that the 911 dispatcher stated that she had reported the pothole several times and couldn’t believe it was not fixed.
Again, that was days before Brown and Boyce hit that same pothole.
“I was without my car for five or six weeks. It was just a nightmare,” Brown said.
Hagen and Channel 2 consumer advisor Clark Howard said the only way to fight a claim denial outside of court is with your local lawmaker.
They said to call your state representative’s constituent service office and ask for help.