Drivers frustrated after I-77 insurance claims go unanswered, unpaid

-  We’ve seen blown tires, bent rims, and cracked windshields all along the I-77 toll lane project.

“You work so hard for your money and then I try and buy nice things and because of the maintenance on the road, my nice things get ruined,” said Ryan Widboom.

Widboom says a rut on I-77 ruined his tire and $400 rim back in December 2015.

“It was about 8:00 p.m. It was dark out. I had just passed exit 23. I got a little bit past that. My headlights hit a pothole. I tried to swerve to miss it. As soon as it did that: boom.”

He filed a claim with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Sugar Creek Construction. It was denied.

“I have no hopes in getting that money back. They got out of paying a $400 claim all because I didn’t take a picture. Who’s going to take a picture at 8:00 at night after you hit a huge pothole to take a picture of the hole?”

He’s not alone. This record from Sugar Creek Construction shows a list of 26 claims. Only six are closed. Most of them unpaid, like Brian Solly’s claim.

“I sent them pictures, police report. They sent people out. I had an estimate done on my vehicle. Nothing. They seem to shirk the responsibility at any chance they got,” said Solly.

He says he hit a traffic barrel that was in his lane on I-77.

“I had nowhere to go. It was the barrel or a car going at 65 miles per hour. I chose the barrel. Luckily that’s as far as it got. The barrel messed up my car, there was no injury, I didn’t strike another vehicle," Solly said.

He also filed a claim. And got denied.

“I went round and round with emails. I don’t know how many emails. A dozen emails with these people. Half of them they didn’t respond to me. Those that they did were a runaround, pushing me around,” said Solly.

Ryan Widboom and Brian Solly, among others, filed claims and got turned down. While the vast majority of these claims are still under review dating back to 2015. We asked the Western Deputy Chief Engineer for the NCDOT, Louis Mitchell,  if that’s normal.

“A claim being open three years is not normal. I’m not sure what document you’re referring to because they do not have a requirement to produce a document to the NCDOT of what’s open and what’s closed. Should something not be heard and a citizen feel like they’re not getting an answer, we will intercede," Mitchell said. 

Let’s break that down. First, why is Sugar Creek Construction not required to report to the state the status of claims filed against them when this project is in-part funded with tax payer dollars?

Second, he says the NCDOT will step up if the construction company is not taking responsibility for vehicle damage. But that hasn’t been Noah Lazes’ experience.

“NCDOT has essentially passed the buck and said unfortunately we can’t deal with it, Sugar Creek as to deal with it. What we’d like to see happen is NCDOT, they must have ramifications in the contract with Sugar Creek to force them to do the right thing and stand behind the work they’re doing which is an absolute mess,” said Lazes.

He says he blew his tire and damaged his rim in this rut along I-77 back in 2015. And he had plenty of proof to show what happened.

“I immediately stopped the car and took pictures of the car and the road damage. We talked to the insurance company and they had the nerve to say we didn’t have enough proof,” said Lazes.

We asked the deputy director over and over again, what people can do to get their claims paid.

“At any time if a citizen wishes to contact the department, they can contact me. I’m out of the chief engineer’s office. I have purview for the entire western 7th division of the state. I will look into their case,” said Mitchell.

Let’s hold him to his word. If you have an open claim or haven’t been reimbursed, call him up. And tell us what happens. Here’s number 704-649-3990 and email lmitchell@ncdot.gov.

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