Driver claims car was damaged from debris on state road, state refuses to pay
BATON ROUGE- Unbeknownst to many Louisiana drivers, the state puts a provision in all of their contracts that they are not responsible for any damage to a driver's car if the road is under construction.
Candice Wallace learned that the hard way this summer, when she says she drove over road debris on Highway 42 in Prairieville in her BMW, which was left with thousands of dollars of damage. Wallace said the road debris that she couldn't' avoid was left behind from a construction cone and tore the undercarriage off the bottom of her coupe forcing her to zip-tie it back on.
"I couldn't go to the left side to miss it because the asphalt was too high," Wallace said. "I couldn't go to the right because there was a big metal culvert. That left me going over them."
Wallace said following that incident, her nightmare began and ultimately led her to retain attorney Andrew Bevinetto in hopes of trying to get the money to repair her car.
"They have a duty to maintain a safe roadway and surface," Bevinetto said. "My client suffered property damage to her vehicle and went through all the proper channels and Barber Brothers denied the claim. DOTD said they are not responsible. You have to talk to Barber Brothers."
The WBRZ Investigative Unit found buried deep inside all of the state's contracts for roads that are under construction is page 84. It reads, "The contractor shall indemnify, defend and hold the department, its officers and employees harmless from all suits, actions or claims brought because of injuries or damage sustained by any person or property, due to operations of the contractor in connection with the contract."
In short, Rodney Mallett with DOTD said the state is not responsible for damage.
"We have more than 600 projects ongoing at any single time and that is the responsibility of the contractor once they sign that contract," Mallett said.
Wallace said she began posting about it on social media. She found that she's not the only one left with a headache trying to get their damages fixed.
"I had 48 different comments with people who had damage to their car from objects in the road -- potholes and things like that," Wallace said.
She said contractor Barber Brothers denied her claim, alleging she wasn't driving safely when she hit the barriers that were left in the road. She said she doesn't believe she should be responsible for damage to her car when the roadway should have been clear.
"They are definitely liable," Wallace said. "I was not speeding, doing the right thing and my car gets damaged. Then I find out the state has a hold-harmless agreement or indemnification from being liable for any damages caused by the road construction and it lies upon the contractors."
WBRZ reached out to Barber Brothers. They released the following statement:
We have fully investigated the alleged claim of Ms. Wallace. She was traveling down Highway 42, in a demarcated construction zone, and contends that she ran over two rubber bases that are used to hold construction barrels in place. The rubber bases are approximately one inch in height and thus, even if they were in the roadway (we do not think that they were), any type of vehicle with even the lowest ground clearance can easily glide over them. The only way that the bases could become an issue is if the motorist is traveling at a high rate of speed in the construction area and struck the rubber base. This allegedly occurred on July 4th weekend and we have had no other such complaints about this issue.
Additionally, Ms. Wallace lives in this area and is aware of the road construction that has been underway for some time now. Ms. Wallace also submitted a photograph of two perfectly placed rubber bases in the middle of the travel lane of Highway 42. There is no conceivable way that the bases could have been on that busy roadway, in that arrangement and placement.
Based on the above and the significant comparative negligence found on Ms. Wallace, her claim was denied with the recommendation that she pursue her damages via her insurance coverage and the insurer can contact us to discuss. Additionally, we have screenshots of false narrative postings by Ms. Wallace on social media surrounding this alleged incident.
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