FDOT pays 10 percent of road damage claims; drivers can increase odds

What happens when your car is damaged on public roads

By Louis Bolden - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - What do you do when your car is damaged by a roadway that isn't properly maintained?
A News 6 investigation reveals how infrequently the state pays vehicle damage claims, but there is something drivers can all do to increase those odds of compensation after their vehicles are damages on Florida Department of Transportation maintained roads.

When Richard and Rebecca Zubowicz hit a broken median that caused nearly $700 in damage to their car, they were certain they would recoup that money from the state because the median was in disrepair.

But the claim they filed with the Florida DOT 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."

They weren't the only ones. News 6 crunched the numbers from a state database and found that in 2017 the state paid less than 10 percent of the 450 claims filed.

 Investigator Louis Bolden asked FDOT public information officer Steve Olson about those statistics.

"I'm not sure how to answer the percentage," Olson said. "But it would be best to document it as best as you possibly can."

Olson suggested taking pictures with time stamps and filing a police report.  However, that's no guarantee the claim will be paid if the DOT isn't aware there is a hazard.

It's why the Zubowiczs' claim was denied, because the DOT "did not have prior notice of the condition where the incident occurred," according to the denial letter. 

"If it was something that we were aware of, or a construction company was aware of as a hazard those claims typically are something that would probably be paid out," Olson said.

Drivers who see something on the road that could be a hazard should report it to the state to maintain a record. If it later causes damage to someone's vehicle there is a better chance that person's claim will be paid, Olson said.

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