Nasty winter weather is often hard on roadways. The deteriorating pavement can cause damage to cars. And if that happens on a state owned highway, motorists might be in luck. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Daniel Borchart, the interim clerk with the Court of Claims, says there is a process for motorists to pursue if their cars are damaged on state owned roads.
BORCHART: "If the damage occurs on a roadway that is maintained by the Ohio Department of Transportation, they can file suit at the Ohio Court of Claims to recover their damages."
INGLES: "And how would they go about doing that?"
BORCHART: "Depending on the amount of their damages. If their damages are $10,000 or less, all they need to do is go to our website, and there is a form complaint that they can print out and mail back to us that asks fairly simple questions. The form itself has been developed so that a person doesn’t need an attorney to file the claim. It just asks the basic questions about what happened, when did it happen, where did it happen and what were your damages -- and then submit like a bill, or ran estimate, or an invoice that the damage caused to your vehicle. If the complaint is above $10,000, then they would have to file a complaint with the judge of the Court of Claims. And that would file the same standard procedure as a civil claim filed in any court of common pleas throughout the state of Ohio."
INGLES: "Now when people file this claim, do they have to prove any wrongdoing on behalf of the state?"
BORCHART: "What they have to prove is, first of all, that ODOT had either actual or constructive notice of the defect that they struck -- and ODOT, after receiving that constructive or actual notice, had a reasonable amount of time to repair that defect but did not, and that that defect caused damage to their vehicle."
INGLES: "How would they go about proving that? Would there be a way that they’d know that ODOT had knowledge of the problem?"
BORCHART: "What ODOT does is ODOT takes telephone calls from motorists on a daily basis and keep a logbook. And unlike a normal civil case, where a plaintiff alleges certain facts and the defendant files an answer denying those allegations, in an A.D. situation -- as in Administrative Determination -- what the defendant does is files an investigation report. In other words, the defendant has a requirement under the law to investigate the matter. So one of the things they provide is a logbook, and it shows who notified ODOT, at what time was ODOT notified. And then depending on the time period, a person can receive damages in that matter or if they know someone in the area where the particular accident occurred, and they can get affidavits those people indicating how long that defect was on the highway before they struck it, that’s another avenue they can use to prove their claim."
INGLES: "And who decides if the claim is valid and if what they are claiming is true."
BORCHART: "I do."
Borchart says he makes all of the administrative determinations in Ohio under $10,000 or less. He decides roughly more than 550 cases per year but that’s not just potholes. Borchart says that’s not just cases of potholes though. He says he also decides cases from prisoners, inmate cases, suits against universities, suits against state parks and more.