It’s now pothole season in the northern states, when road cracks open up after winter. Even in Florida and other southern states, however, roads can be hazardous too, because of all the debris that has not yet been picked up for spring cleaning.
So February and March can be hazardous times to be on the highway. The good news: you can get reimbursed for damage to your car, if you act promptly and know exactly what to do.
Wrong place, wrong time
It was dusk on Oct. 19, 2017, when a small black car led police on a high-speed chase. The chase was captured on Ohio Highway Patrol dash-cam video.
Deanna Garrett ended up in the middle of it.
"I saw the car they had attempted to pull over flying by me, with about eight Highway Patrol cars coming after him," Garrett said.
Garrett said she was in the high-speed, left lane and unable to merge when the chase approached her from behind. She said an officer on the left berm suddenly tossed a stop stick into the left lane in an attempt to stop the getaway car.
But the driver quickly switched lanes, she said, and the dash cam video confirms the black car's quick move to the far right lane. Instead, Garrett, in her Ford Escape, ended up driving right into the nail-filled stick.
"Instinct was to try to swerve to miss it," she said. "But if I had swerved, I would have crashed into the guy they were chasing, or one of the patrol officers, and had an accident."
So she ran over the stop stick, and she still has the nails that went into her tire as proof.
"Instant flat tires," she said.
She just had time to pull onto the left shoulder.
No one was injured, but Garrett's troubles had just begun.
"I had to pay for tires. It was about $550 in total," she said.
How to protect yourself
Repair shop owner Kris Cunningham says this is common this time of year.
“We are seeing a lot of tire damage, a lot of front suspension damage, ball joints," he said.
He says if you hit any debris left by police, a highway crew or a pothole, the most important thing is pulling over in a safe place. Then, he says, take our your phone and document everything. That’s the evidence you will need.
Take lots of pictures of the damage to your car and the scene. Ideally, show what you hit.
File a police report, which is usually required to get reimbursement.
Contact the city, county or state (whichever has jurisdiction) and ask how to apply for reimbursement.
With a pothole, it typically has to be a pothole that has been reported before. If you are the first to hit and report it, you are usually out of luck.
Garrett can only wait to find out if she gets reimbursed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"I don't think it's right. I was at not at fault in this whole situation," she said.
AAA says that highway debris -- from beds to ladders to traffic cones -- causes 25,000 accidents nationwide a year.
If your car is damaged and the government denies your claim, your only other option is to file a claim with your insurance under your comprehensive coverage.
It shouldn't impact your insurance rates, and that way you don't waste your money.
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