State Road Conditions Lead to Noticeable Increase in Claims Filed With Court of Claims

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — As complaints about road conditions in West Virginia increase, so do the number of claims filed by drivers seeking reimbursement for damages caused by those roads.

“I would say we’re somewhere near a thousand [for the year],” George Fordham, one of three judges for the West Virginia Court of Claims said on Monday’s edition of “The Mike Queen Show” heard on the Metro-affiliated AJR News Network.

Because citizens cannot sue the state for damages, the Court of Claims was created in 1967 by the legislature as a way to pursue reasonable recourse.

The three-judge panel is charged with determining the legitimacy of the claims filed against state agencies.

Under normal circumstances, the court would meet once a month. However, Fordham said with roads becoming more of an issue, they will meet more frequently.

“When I first started ten years ago, that would have been the average. I know that in the month of October, we’re going to meet three days a week, every week for the month.”

Fordham believes the process of seeking compensation may be long, but not complicated

“Anyone can file a claim and you can obtain a claim form, if you wish, online or you can call the court and they’ll be happy to send one to you,” he said. “You can represent yourself, you don’t have to have a lawyer, especially in the smaller claims. We seldom see attorneys involved in those claims.”

Within the claim, individuals are asked to include the date of the incident, a specific locations –“Route 50 westbound next the to the Chestnust Street exit in Clarksburg,” rather than just “Route 50”– along with pictures, if one so chooses.

A copy of the deceleration from insurance may also be requested as the court can only award up to the maximum deductible for collisions on an insurance policy.

The next step in the process is for the claim to be taken up by the court and made the subject of a hearing, where they will take on a variety of cases.

“Anything from $25 pothole claims to multi-million dollar bridge construction claims,” Fordham explained. “There’s a pretty wide spectrum of matters that we’ll hear.”

If the claim is approved, it then heads to the legislature for approval in the form of a claims bill to be passed during the regular session.

Due to the process, a driver with a damaged car could wait approximately a year between the time of the accident and receiving money.

Fordham admitted it is a long road to receive compensation, but said the process works.

“It’s a slow process but again, if not for the court of claims, you wouldn’t have any recourse at all.”

The Court of Claims also hears claims related to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.

The court’s website is legis.state.wv.us/joint/courtofclaims.cfm.