Who is responsible when an object in the roadway damages a vehicle?

Couple spends $700 on damage caused by median after FDOT denied claim

By Louis Bolden - Investigative Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - With all the construction in Central Florida, it's not unusual for a vehicle to be damaged by an object in the roadway.

Rebecca and Richard Zubowicz said they were driving on US 1 in Titusville when it happened to them.

"It was a huge impact," Rebecca Zubowicz said.  "It shook the whole car."

When they made a left turn onto Garden Street, they hit something.

 "We knew it was something big, but we didn't know what," Richard Zubowicz said.

They hit the median and based on preexisting damage, they said it was obvious that they weren't the only ones to do it.

"I looked at the whole intersection and said, 'There's a big piece of concrete missing,' people have been hitting this thing on a regular basis," Richard said.

They immediately took pictures to document the median.

"There was no reflective paint on it because it was gone, so there was no way to see it," Rebecca Zubowicz said.

While there was no visible damage to their 2009 Chevy Traverse, the next day, they noticed a difference in how the car handled.

"We were driving, I heard a click click click in the front of the car," Richard Zubowicz said.  

It was the sound of front end damage that cost nearly $700 to repair, according to receipts.

"It gave us a lot of financial stress that we didn't need," Rebecca Zubowicz said.

The couple submitted a claim to the Department of Transportation, hoping to recoup the money, but that claim was denied.

"I was sort of shocked," Rebecca Zubowicz said. "I didn't understand why they would deny us when really the Department of Transportation was at fault for not maintaining that median."

The couple appealed the decision and again they were denied. The reason? FDOT, "did not have prior notice of the condition of the area where the incident occurred," according to a letter from the Florida Department of Financial Services, which oversees claims.

 Something similar happened to Matthew Kenzig,

"It's very frustrating," Kenzig said.

When Kenzig damaged his Cadillac on a Lake County road, it cost more than $600 to repair, according to receipts.

His claim was denied by a different entity but for the same reason.  

"Lake County had not been notified of any problems (in the) area prior to the incident," according to the denial letter.

"It does make me wonder how many claims are out there that have been denied," Kenzig said.

News 6 investigated and found out in 2017, Floridians filed 451 claims with the state, according to a database from the Department of Transportation.  

Out of 450 claims, 328 are closed, and 43 have been paid, less than 10 percent of the total.

"It just doesn't seem fair," Rebecca Zubowicz said. "Our taxes are paid to maintain the roads and take care of everything and it wasn't done," she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation would not go on camera and would not confirm if the first person to report a problem is always denied.

The Department has agreed to take another look at the Zubowicz's claim.

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