UPDATE: Just two days after NewsChannel 3 aired this story, Emily Scott says Curtis Contracting has agreed to not only reimburse her the $60 she paid for repairs, but also to replace her windshield.
"From the instant I started talking to NewsChannel 3 about what was going on I started getting results," Scott said.
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA - Emily Scott says flying rocks and debris left behind by construction crews on I-264E put a golf ball-sized crack smack dab on her windshield.
"When it hit the glass it literally just created a shadow of dust, you could wipe it off with your finger," Scott explained.
Scott is among dozens of drivers to file a damage claim with VDOT recently. She is also among dozens whose claims were denied.
"When there is a piece of roadway that’s being worked on and there’s evident debris in the road from where they haven’t cleaned it up, to me, that would seem like that would be the contractor,” Scott said.
It may sound like a repeat of two years ago. NewsChannel 3 took action when those massive potholes plagued drivers. VDOT’s contractor was slow to respond then, and Scott says the contractors regarding her case refuse to take responsibility now.
"They could have cared less. They didn`t call me to say ‘Hey, let`s take a look at this you know, can we evaluate this claim?’ ” Scott said.
NewsChannel 3 asked for all damage claims on I-264 from Railroad Bridge west of Witchduck Road to Parks Avenue.
Out of 50 claims filed with VDOT since August for damage caused by “loose aggregate," we found that only nine of them were paid. Scott is one of 41 others who were denied.
We demanded answers from VDOT spokesperson Laurie Simmons. Simmons is a former NewsChannel 3 reporter who demanded answers from VDOT in February 2013 when those pothole damage claims rolled in.
"Back then, there was a separation and we've really tried to combine the processes to make sure that VDOT is on top of things in making sure that we hold our contractors accountable," Simmons said.
Even though damage claims are first filed with VDOT, Simmons says it’s actually the contractor who investigates and decides if they are legitimate.
In this case, the claims were forwarded to the paving subcontractor since they had to do with loose debris on the newly paved road.
Days after filing her claim, Scott received a letter from the subcontractor.
"Upon completing our nightly operations the road is swept clean of loose debris and signs are placed advising of the road work." The subcontractor then wrote, “Any stones that came into the road after our shift would have been caused by the traffic travelling across the newly installed or existing pavement.”
Therefore, Scott’s claim was denied - at least at first.
"I know that once Channel 3 got involved I think that a panic mode set in,” Scott said.
Simmons says VDOT started investigating what was going on once they noticed a rise in the number of damage claims coming in.
But, the President of Curtis Contracting, the company in charge of the work, admits it wasn't until after NewsChannel 3 took action and contacted VDOT about Scott's claim that they reopened it, and 40 others.
"We've contacted or are in the process of contacting those people. When they get us the information, Curtis will write them a check.” Andy Curtis added, “After all it’s our name on the project.”
In the future, Curtis says his company will no longer forward damage claims to the subcontractor. Instead, they will handle all damage claims themselves to avoid any miscommunication.
As for Scott, she says she’s just happy her claim is now being taken seriously.
"Apparently Channel 3 looking into it got somewhere because they`re definitely looking to help me out now," Scott said.
Part of the problem lies in overall confusion about how the claims process works.
Here’s the breakdown:
First, call 1-800-FOR-ROAD to file a damage claim with VDOT.
Once VDOT has the necessary information, your claim should then be forwarded to the project contractor.
The contractor will then contact you to begin investigating your claim – Click here to see a sample of the letter the contractor should send and the information you will be asked to provide.
The contractor should then notify you directly about their decision.
To better the chances of receiving payment for a damage claim, take pictures of the damage, file a police report if necessary, make note of the date, time, specific location and details of the incident.
Ultimately, the contractor, not VDOT, decides whether a driver’s claim is legitimate. But, it’s VDOT’s responsibility to make sure their contractors are properly handling and investigating all claims.
When it comes to claims filed for Curtis Contracting, Simmons promises , “If you have a legitimate claim, you are going to get paid.”
If you feel your damage claim was not investigated properly, immediately call VDOT at 1-800-FOR-ROAD and tell them what’s going on. Simmons says VDOT can then investigate the issue further.