Columbia, SC (by Robert Kittle) The potholes and other road maintenance problems, along with sometimes poor design or construction, are costing the South Carolina Department of Transportation millions of dollars a year in damage claims.
Looking through a report from the state's Insurance Reserve Fund of the claims the state paid out shows that the SCDOT has paid $18.7 million in claims over the last three years. The money comes from the reserve fund, not the DOT's regular road-building budget.
The claims range from damage to vehicles caused by potholes, paying out a few thousand dollars, to large legal settlements to drivers and passengers seriously injured or even killed by road design or maintenance problems.
Attorney Jack Duncan represented a Lexington man who was driving a dump truck carrying about 11 tons of sand to a construction project at the Savannah River Site. A dog ran in front of him and he turned the wheel slightly to avoid it. One of his back wheels went off the road. But instead of the shoulder being even with or just slightly lower than the road, there was an eight-inch drop.
"It led to the truck being flipped, and he's very lucky to be alive," Duncan says. The driver suffered serious back injuries that left him 26 percent disabled. Duncan says he doesn't think anyone inspected the road went it was paved, because an eight-inch drop from the road to the shoulder does not meet code and should have been obvious. The Insurance Reserve Fund paid out $115,000 in losses and $48,475 in expenses on the claim.
SCDOT spokesman Pete Poore said the agency couldn't comment on its claims losses because the attorney who runs the Claims Office was in court.
Duncan says, "I think that's probably just the tip of the iceberg, as far as the problems out there." That's because a lot of people whose vehicles are damaged, or they're injured in an accident, don't file a claim or lawsuit against the DOT.
You can see the claims paid out by the state's Insurance Reserve Fund at http://www.cg.sc.gov/fiscaltransparency/Documents/IRF%20Payments/IRF1504-Std%20IRF%20FOIA_Closed%20Claims_Q1-2013_Redacted.pdf