SEEKONK, Mass. (WPRI) – Traffic was heavy and Jennifer Degagne didn’t see the gaping pothole in the highway until it was too late.
“As soon as my car hit it, I had to pull over,” she told Call 12 for Action.
About a dozen vehicles were damaged by the same pothole, which snarled traffic on I-195 in Seekonk in April.
Degagne ended up with two flat tires and two broken rims.
“They were completely crushed, so $1,000 later for that and an $80 tow and $350 in new tires,” she said. “It was a very expensive pothole.”
Degagne filed a claim for the damage through the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, but her claim was denied because the agency only pays for injuries caused by roadway defects.
“It doesn’t seem fair,” she said.
Call 12 for Action wanted to know how much was paid out in pothole claims, so we requested statewide data from the past three years.
In an email, MassDOT spokesperson Patrick Marvin said, “MassDOT has not made any payments for claims for personal injuries sustained in the years you mentioned that were allegedly the result of roadway defects such as potholes.”
Massachusetts state law caps pothole injury claims at $4,000.
By comparison, the R.I. Department of Transportation covered 427 pothole claims in 2018. Reimbursements are capped at $300 unless the damage is sustained in a construction zone.
“Getting that letter, it sort of deters people from going any further,” Degagne said. “I wasn’t going to take that because it was over $1,500 and I really wanted my money back.”
That’s when Degagne realized the pothole she hit was in a construction zone. That changed everything.
“Luckily, a woman had posted a video,” she said. “What you could see in her video was grooved pavement, and I was like, ‘That’s a construction zone!'”
Because of that video, the contractor’s insurance is responsible to handle the claim.
But Degagne believes drivers shouldn’t have to rely on videos on the news and social media posts to prove their case to the state.
“If Massachusetts is hiring a contractor to work on the roads, shouldn’t they have that information?” she asked. “Know when the roads are being worked on?”
MassDOT said it does not track payments made by contractors for pothole claims.