Pothole problems? Reimbursement not likely

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The harsh winter and recent heavy rains have caused terrible problems on the roads.

The city has received nearly 11,000 more pothole complaints so far this year than the same period last year, according to the Department of Public Works. The number of Tort claims for damage caused by potholes is also up dramatically, but Eyewitness News found that doesn't mean it's any easier to get reimbursed.

We asked the city for a list of claims filed during the first three months of this year and for all of 2013. Documents showed the city has received 582 claims for pothole damage that occurred during the first three months of this year. That's nearly eight times the number of claims filed from January through March last year.

Linda and Murvin Enders are among those who filed a complaint after hitting a "huge" pothole on West 86th Street in mid-January.

Linda said, "It felt like you ran over something awful."

"It was a huge hole, probably 3.5 feet long and 12- to 14 inches deep," Murvin added.

The couple said it busted both wheels on the passenger side. They had to have the car towed and take a cab home.

"It was not a pleasant evening," Murvin said, nor a cheap one. All told, it cost them $500, so they decided to file a Tort claim against the city.

"People take care of their cars and then they hit a pothole and it really damaged our car," Linda said.

Her husband added, "That's part of [the city's] responsibility to maintain good roads for citizens and that wasn't done."

But Eyewitness News found the odds of getting reimbursed for pothole damage is slim to none. In fact, just six of the 156 people who filed claims last year received money back and their average settlement was just over $400.

"I'd like to know how the six got their [money]," Murvin said.

The Enders, like almost everyone else who's filed claims, were denied. The law says the city is only responsible if they had "prior knowledge" of the potholes and failed to repair them in "a reasonable amount of time."

That's the murky area and a source of frustration for the Enders.

Murvin said he's certain the city "knew they had a problem. That same evening, five cars hit the same pothole. I'm not sure when the first call was, I just know they got a lot of calls and there was a lot of damage."

Not satisfied with the city's response, the couple appealed, "but you get the same response no matter how many times you appeal," Murvin said. "It didn't matter what you turned in, there just wasn't enough time to appeal it."

"They ought to be able to take care of their citizens and they haven't," Linda said.