Who pays if road debris damages your car?

CHARLOTTE — Imagine being on the road and hitting debris that damages your car. Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke says it can be hard to get the repairs covered since you have to figure out who’s responsible.

A crash happened on Interstate 77 south near Carowinds Boulevard. As standard procedure, state troopers called a wrecker company. Channel 9 found a tweet from NCDOT saying the scene was clear shortly before 9:30 p.m.

A few hours later, Jonathan Walton was driving on that stretch of the interstate.

“I knew I hit something, so I automatically pull over, and when I got out and looked, (I noticed I had) two flats. I was like, ‘My goodness,’” he told Stoogenke.

Walton says he hit wood planks in the road. It was a big enough problem that troopers had to respond. Walton showed Stoogenke the police report. He says a trooper told him the planks must have been from the earlier wreck.

“Once I had got out of my car, immediately other cars start pulling over to the side too, so I’m guessing they hit the same planks,” he said.

Walton says he replaced all four tires on his car so they’d match. The receipt shows the tires cost more than $900, but Walton only wants reimbursement for the two that were damaged.

He asked Stoogenke who he should file a claim with. Stoogenke says with the wrecker service that was supposed to clean the roadway.

According to Highway Patrol’s policy: “The wrecker service operator must remove all debris, other than hazardous materials … from the highway and the right-of-way prior to leaving the incident/collision scene.”

Stoogenke exchanged emails with Highway Patrol and NCDOT to track down the company that responded to that first wreck. Walton got the name of the company so he could follow up with the business. At the time of this report, there was no word on an outcome.

Stoogenke says even if you are able to track down the wrecker company, it can still be hard to prove your case and win, especially the more time that passes, so don’t wait to take action.

If you hit debris that did not come from a wreck, you’ll have to figure out who the debris belonged to, which can be nearly impossible to prove.

If you hit a pothole that damages your car, Stoogenke says you have to prove two things:

  1. The city or state, whichever maintains that road, knew about the pothole.
  2. The city or state had time to fix it.

It can be hard to prove both. In a previous investigation, Stoogenke found out the City of Charlotte and the state rarely pay out for pothole damage.

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