Local man sues contractor for damage to his vehicle
SUMMIT COUNTY – Bobby Galloway’s Jaguar sedan suffered incurred nearly $1,000 in repairs in a blown-out tire and a twisted wheel, he said. Steve Dreiling said the front end of his Dodge truck has suffered about $1,200 in damages.
They say their vehicles’ problems spring from the same source: construction on Highway 9.
“I am not here to make some money off this thing,” said Galloway, who has filed in Denver small claims court against contractor PCL. “I’m just trying to get them to pay for the damages. I think they’re responsible for this one and they just won’t own up to it.”
Galloway said his wife’s Jaguar sedan dropped into a large pothole, bending the wheel and ruining the tire. He’s suing for a total of $941, including the cost of the tire, wheel, an alignment and court costs. He also said he’s gathered 73 signatures – mostly from Heeney-area residents – on a petition that declares the project area hasn’t been adequately maintained, resulting in hazardous driving conditions.
“They have done a very poor job of maintaining the road construction site. I’ve lived here 16 years and they’ve done construction year after year and I’ve never seen a road that had rocks sticking up out of the road 6, 7, 8 inches.”
Another driver, Dreiling, said his mechanic told him he had about $1,200 worth of front-end damage. He took the truck in after he noticed “the steering was funny.”
“A whole bunch of my gauges aren’t working now,” said Dreiling, who drives daily from his home in Heeney to his Frisco business. While he admits some of it could be wear and tear, he believes the majority of his vehicle’s problems result from traveling over the rough road.
“I don’t know what else it could be,” he said. “Everybody that has to travel that on a regular basis is not happy.”
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) project on Highway 9 began last summer and is slated for completion in November 2003. While CDOT is overseeing the project, it has contracted the work to Denver-based PCL Civil Constructors.
CDOT project engineer Mike Voxakis praised PCL as “one of the better contractors” he’s worked with. Nevertheless, officials say rebuilding the 6-mile stretch of the highway north of Silverthorne is challenging.
PCL operations manager Shane Waldron said his company is rebuilding a new road on top of the old road, and there is no room for detours. In addition, he said, “the material coming out of the sides of the hills is really, really rocky.
“This is a very challenging project,” Waldron said. “We’re definitely trying to get it done as quickly as possible. It’s in our best interest, too.”
While Waldron said he hadn’t heard about Galloway’s case, his company has dealt with “five to seven claims” from drivers who blame PCL for damage to their vehicles.
“We had a couple people with bad tires,” he said. “One person complained about a rock hitting an oil pan.”
Waldron said PCL works diligently to keep the road passable. When such claims are filed, it hits his company hard. On the Highway 9 project, there have been no allowances made for such expenses.
“So when we pay for something like this, it does come out of our bottom line,” he said.
But Voxakis said the police, and not PCL, is the first organization drivers should go to when they have a problem. If PCL immediately paid for every bit of damage a driver claimed was caused by passing through the project, he said, “you’d have a line from here to Heeney.”
“This is a no-fault state,” he said. “So if you hit a deer or elk, by law you have to report that immediately to police. Then they file a report and you report it to your insurance. Insurance companies take over at that point. So, really, there shouldn’t be a whole lot of cases where an individual is calling the contractor.”
And those reports, Voxakis said, should be made immediately.
“Let’s face it,” he said. “This road is graded every day. If there’s something that was a hazard, it may not be there tomorrow.”
A police report is the most objective way to determine fault, if there is any, Voxakis said.
“A cop could come out and determine you were driving at an excessive rate of speed, you were drunk, you were passing somebody illegally – those are some of the examples,” he said. “By someone just calling up and saying, “I’ve got damage to my car, let me tell you who to write the check out to,’ obviously, a contractor is not going to do that.”
While both Galloway and Dreiling say they drive slowly through the area, Galloway’s wife Gayle said she did not report the problem to her insurance company because she felt PCL is at fault.
Dreiling said he has been too busy at work to report the damage to his truck.
Galloway said he still takes the road, but now he drives one of his four-wheel drive vehicles. That, he believes, is the safest way to go.
“That was a needed project, and the road will be a lot better when they get through with it, but they should have a sign that says, “Four-wheel drive recommended. High clearance required,'” he said. “A lot of cars are not equipped to go on the road the way it’s maintained.”
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