CFA Investigation: Who Pays For Pothole Damage?

Aaron Knodel says his car was totaled when he hit a giant pothole.
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UPDATE: It's been more than a week since the initial claim, and we had a sit down interview with the city several days ago. After our story aired at 10 p.m. Tuesday, the city told us Wednesday morning the pothole referenced in our story is not within city limits and therefore not their responsibility. 11 Call For Action will work to track down who's responsible for that pothole.
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Original story 2/16/16:

On your drive home, you probably hit a pothole. In the morning, when you take your kids to school, it will happen again and again. They're getting worse every day.

We want to tell you about the worst pothole case we've found so far. It's on Palmer Park and Space Center Drive in Colorado Springs. A car was totaled. Shouldn't someone pay for that? We went to the city.

In this 11 Call for Action Investigation, 11 News Reporter Katie Pelton asks who should pay.

Aaron Knodel cleaned out his car, which he will never drive again. It's all because of a giant pothole.

"My tire blew on my passenger side of my car," said Knodel. "Then my airbags on my driver side went off, smacked me."

There was a loud bang.

"It sounded like somebody had shot a gun," said Knodel. "I haven't heard that loud of a pop or anything like that. I was scared; I didn't really know what happened. I just saw a lot of white smoke powder."

The 19-year-old says his car bottomed out.

"It was over $9,000 worth of damage," said Knodel. “Insurance deemed it a total.”

"It's devastating," said Knodel. "I haven't even had this car a year."

11 News measured the pothole. It's about 6 feet wide and about 6 inches deep.

"It just doesn't feel good to have to clean out my car because it's totaled because of potholes in Colorado Springs," said Knodel.

Knodel tells 11 News he filed a claim with the city. So we went to the city to ask how the process works.

"We investigate the claim and then we make the determination on whether we're liable or not," said David Miller, the risk management supervisor for Colorado Springs.

Miller is the claims supervisor. We asked how many pothole claims they've had in the last year.

Miller: "Right now, we handled from February of last year to February 10th of this year, we've had 545 claims."
Katie Pelton: "And how many of those have you paid out?"
Miller: "We've paid zero."

That's right, they haven't paid out any claims in the last year. Zero. None.

Pelton: "Do you think that's fair, that these 545 people, none of them have gotten paid?"
Miller: "I just go off of what the CGIA says. So we have had notice and we have a reasonable amount of time to fix it."

Miller says the city is covered under an immunity act.

Miller: "The city is governed under what they call the Colorado Government Immunity Act. What that states is we have to have knowledge of a dangerous road condition, i.e. a pothole, and we have to have a reasonable amount of time to fix that."

The city decides for itself what a reasonable amount of time is based on weather and manpower.

Pelton: "It sounds like the odds are really against you if you're trying to file a claim."
Miller: "Well, again, we follow the CGIA and we contact everybody who files a claim and we investigate the claim, everyone on their own merits and they have to let us know exactly where that pothole is. Then we make that determination and we always get back to them by phone and by letter denying their claims."

But the city still encourages you to report potholes.

Pelton: "Typically if you're the first one to file it, you're not going to get it?"
Miller: "More than likely, no."
Pelton: "And really if you're anyone, you're not going to get paid, it seems like."
Miller: "As it is right now, yes. You're absolutely right."

The city tells me when they get a claim, they try to deal with it within a week. Well Aaron reported the pothole last Tuesday. We checked on the pothole on Tuesday of this week and it's still there.

We even showed Miller the pothole Knodel hit.

Miller: "Well if it's a first time we have had notice then they'll probably be denied."

"They're not just like little small potholes anymore, they've turned into huge small lakes," said Knodel.

Pelton: "I know that you have to go by the books and do things accordingly, but I just want something to say to these drivers."
Miller: "We definitely have empathy for them, understand, we drive the same streets, but the one tip is to stay far enough back from your cars in front of you that you can make that maneuver if you see a pothole."

Leave more room so you can stop in time, the city says.

"It's their responsibility to be maintaining the roads, they raised our taxes to be maintaining the roads and, I mean, everybody that lives in Colorado Springs is paying for it but it's not being done," Knodel added.

We asked the city and the last time they paid out a claim for a pothole was nearly two years ago, June 2014. They said they paid $115 for a damaged rim.

Right now, the city says people are reporting about 30 claims a week following the recent snow storm.

If you want to report a pothole to the city of Colorado Springs, call 719-385-ROAD or report it online using the link on this page.

Be sure to check out the new section on our website dedicated to the pothole problem in our city. It's called "Policing Potholes." There's an interactive map with information about potholes reported to our newsroom. Click the link on this page.

If you see a pothole, send us an email at news@kktv.com or send us a Facebook message. You can also email Katie Pelton at kpelton@kktv.com.