WASTE WATCHDOH Small Claims
from Eyewitness News Online
State Makes Improvements Following Critical Audit
November 28, 2012
Nobody likes potholes because they can cause big problems.
"Oh no, you're tire's all flat and junk. Did I do that?" from a GEICO Insurance television commercial.
A 2010 special report on how the state Division of Highways handled small claims was not flattering.
Auditors determined the DOH used delaying tactics by denying every claim. That backed things up in small claims court. As cases stretched over months and sometimes years, many claimants missed hearings, meaning the DOH didn't have to pay.
"We found that in all of the small claims made against the state that were against the Division of Highways, they were denied thus forcing a hearing," said Brandon Burton, a senior research analyst for the Performance Evaluation and Reseach Division.
The special report said most of the claims filed against the DOH were for road hazards and the average amount claimed was $475. However, the average cost to the state to completely adjudicate one claim was $1,339.
"In some cases claimants that were awarded money were not receiving it for up to two and a half years," Burton said.
An update to the audit has found some progress. Instead of denying 100 percent of claims against it, the DOH now denies about 75 percent. And the wait for people who file successful claims has dropped from two and a half years to between eight months and a year.
I think we really just resolved ourselves to doing better, investigating quicker. Having that team really work harder and be more efficient and I think we've done that," said Brent Walker, spokesman for the Division of Highways.
The audit concluded there is no need for further updates on how the Division of Highways handles small claims, saying its practice of reviewing, identifying and resolving cases has had a positive impact.
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