Vehicle owners left wondering who is responsible for damage caused by pothole on I-94

NOW: Vehicle owners left wondering who is responsible for damage caused by pothole on I-94

MILWAUKEE COUNTY (CBS 58) -- Tom Schott, Stacey Nelson, and Sean Sanchez did not know each other a month ago, but now they are united by what happened one night mid-April. 

"April 16th at about 9:30 at night and the road was completely dark," said Schott. 

"I'm driving down the highway, happy go lucky, and then poof! This loud crashing sound and I see rocks flying in the air" said Nelson. 

"My car kind of jumped off the ground," said Sanchez, "I thought for sure I broke something, the truck in front of me hit it and shot debris all over my car. It was a lot of clouds of debris and rocks, like big rocks."

A large pothole, a couple SUV tires long by a couple wide, according to Schott, was on I-94 near Drexel Avenue, and debris was flying. 

"Some of them were substantial chunks," said Schott. 

"It was a scary situation because when you’re driving, you’re not anticipating something like that, you would think potholes would be in the city, but for something of that magnitude, you wouldn’t think that would be on the highway driving high speeds," said Nelson. 

Schott and Nelson said they pulled over to the side of the road after the incident and called 911. Sanchez, in the Corvette he'd dreamed about having all of his life, drove back to his home and called in about it. 

"They basically told me that this happened to other vehicles, that there’s cops on the scene that ten vehicles were damaged and that I could go and follow up with a police officer."

Law enforcement responded to the scene. 

"We were just given a simple sheet of paper where we could pick up our police reports," said Nelson. 

"The officer told me this is something he's never seen before," said Sanchez, adding the officer told him someone from the state would be reaching out to him about the incident. 

"He said within two weeks, the state should get to me and give me the next steps on where we go with this," said Sanchez. 

Emergency repairs were done to the pothole that night, but those involved said the damage to their vehicles was lasting, and significant. 

Schott said he estimates the damage to his vehicle, that he uses for his small business, is going to be about $2,300. He said he was working with an attorney about how to get that paid for. 

"You have insurance and whether or not they’re going to cover that, that does kind of upset people knowing that you are kind of on your own with the damage now, and the state doesn’t want to take that responsibility," he said. 

Nelson estimates the damage to her vehicle is $1,300. Her vehicle is important to her because she works as a driver, making frequent trips from Wisconsin to Texas. 

"I was not anticipating this, this is not my fault."

Sanchez pointed out marks on the windshield and hood of his dream car. 

"It’s been kind of a nightmare, you know. Every time I get in my car, I’m worried," he said. 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, if a person's car is damaged due to a pothole, hitting a construction barrel or debris in the road, the state or county is not liable for the damage. Their website adds that people should "please contact your insurance company in those situations."

Michae Pyritz, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation said if there is damage within a construction zone, it's the contractor a person should file a claim with. 

CBS 58 is still waiting to hear back from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation about who that contractor is. 

In the meantime, Schott said he is working on creating a solution to help people who might ever be in this type of situation. 

"I personally feel that some of the efforts I’m doing will help move us forward for solving this issue for all of us," he said. 

Adding there was is one thing he wants everyone to know before they experience something similar. 

"I did not have comprehensive coverage," he said, "That’s the foremost lesson I learned on that, I didn’t have enough insurance."

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