Pothole victims have options for part of repair bills

The chaotic winter weather has spawned a minefield of potholes on West Virginia roadways. (WCHS, WVAH)

Driving the roads lately may seem like playing dodgeball with so many potholes springing up, not to mention the costly repairs if you hit the big one.

So, we dug deep to find out what you can do if your car is damaged on West Virginia roads that are riddled with potholes.

Yes, they are back.

“They’re just so widespread this year,” Steven Perry said while filling up his car at a gas station in Charleston.

And, they are everywhere.

“They’re deep,” Lana Young said while stopping by Capitol Market.

And many motorists we talked to said they are horrible.

“I was trying to dodge them and the traffic coming at me,” Susanne Taylor said after pulling into Capitol Market.

We are talking about the dreaded pothole.

“I hit one last year and busted a tire. It broke my rim,” Taylor said.

Road crews have been trying to keep up, cold patching as many holes as they can on dry days.

But with all of the snow, rain and below freezing temperatures we have seen so far this year, they can’t keep up.

As a result, pothole victims are rolling in at a quicker pace at repair shops such as Marty’s Tires in Charleston.

“We see a lot of wheel damage, as you can see, a lot of tire damage, of course,” said Travis Jordan, the store’s manager. “It does do damage to the front-end part, the suspension parts, sometimes the steering parts.”

And that can get expensive. But you do have some options to help pay the bill.

The state has money set aside to help that will pay up to the amount of your insurance deductible.

“Specifically, if you have collision coverage or no collision coverage," Janet Kawash said. "We’re limited to up to the amount of your deductible,”

Kawash is the clerk of the West Virginia Court of Claims, which oversees the pothole fund.

“Last year, the pothole claims were approximately a half-a-million-dollars.” Kawash said.

“We average between 750 and 1,000 claims filed each year. Not all of those claims are specifically potholes, but the majority of those claims are," she said.

If you decide to file, load up on lots of patience. The process to file is in itself a long and winding road.

First, you have to file a claim for reimbursement with the West Virginia Court of Claims.

Then, you need to fill in as much detail as possible about the accident, including the location of the offending pothole and attach copies of all invoices and receipts for damages your car suffered.

The most critical piece of information: a copy of your insurance declarations page that shows what kind of coverage you have and your deductible. Your claim is then investigated and a hearing is held.

And if your claim is approved, Kawash said the whole process can take more than a year before you see your money.

It's a wait that some people just don't want to endure.

“To get it paid by the state takes an act of Congress,” Taylor said.

The state will investigate your claim only if the offending crater was on a state-owned road. If your close encounter happened on a city-owned road, check with that city. Charleston and Huntington do have a claims process for pothole-damaged vehicles. And chances are good that you won’t have to wait as long to be reimbursed.

The good news is asphalt plants should be opening in mid-March or April to lay down a more permanent fix. In the meantime, the Division of Highways said if you spot a pothole, just slow down.

The claim for pothole damages with the state can be filed with the West Virginia Court of Claims. Click here for a claim form.

With the city of Charleston, a claim for pothole damages is located under the city clerk’s office. click here for a claim form.

A claim for pothole damages with the city of Huntington is under the city’s legal department. click here for a claim form.

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