Pa. law protects commonwealth from paying for pothole damages - Erie News Now | WICU & WSEE in Erie, PA

Pa. law protects commonwealth from paying for pothole damages

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ERIE, Pa. -

Potholes are popping up everywhere, including the intersection of W. 26th St. and Zuck Rd. in Millcreek. The damage is keeping repairmen like Ken Dias pretty busy.

"I'll bet I straightened 30 rims just this week," said Dias, owner of Dias Spring Service on W. 12th St. in Erie.

That damage can be extensive -- and expensive. Dias showed Erie News Now a series of bent rims and chewed up tires that his shop is fixing. Those problems can rack up bills worth hundreds to thousands of dollars, he said.

But if the damage happens on a state-owned road like W. 26th St....

"The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would not be liable for paying for any property damage that may occur to your vehicle," said Troy Thompson, press secretary for the Pa. Dept. of General Services, which oversees the commonwealth's Bureau of Risk and Insurance Management.

It all stems from the Sovereign Immunity Act of 1978, which protects the state from paying any property damages -- including vehicles -- resulting from potholes, sinkholes, or other conditions created by natural elements, Thompson said during a telephone interview with Erie News Now on Friday.

The commonwealth receives hundreds of claims from drivers each year, hoping to get reimbursed. The state has not cut a check in the last four years, Thompson said.

"If there is any bodily injury that results from your vehicle hitting a pothole, we will pay for any bodily injury claims," he said.

Another thing to watch for, especially this time of year, are the potholes that are full of water. Sometimes they're a lot deeper than you think, Dias stressed.

"When you hit a pothole, the springs will snap and break," he said. "We're doing a lot of that right now, too."

The good news for drivers: some municipalities will cover the costs to repair your car. But the process to get that money could be a bumpy ride.

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