WOONSOCKET – From wrecked rims to bodily injury, the claims for damages have come pouring into City Hall after a ruinous spate of winter weather that turned streets into pothole-ridden obstacle courses and sidewalks to skating rinks.
The City Council will consider at least 11 of them when the panel meets Monday, an unhappy collection of weather-related insults to walls, fences, motor vehicles and, in at least one case, a human being.
Through her lawyer, Betty Jo Jackson of Franklin informs the council that she was getting out of her car on Boyden Street on Jan. 29 when she took a spill on a sidewalk allegedly neglected by municipal cleanup crews.
“Due to accumulated ice and snow Ms. Jackson slipped and fell to the ground, hitting her head and injuring her right hip,” her lawyer, Keith Cardoza claims. “The full extent of her injuries are unknown.”
Unlike the slick prose of Jackson's professionally-crafted paperwork, most of the claims are written, often by hand, in plain, uncomplicated language by ordinary Joes looking for a little payback against Old Man Winter.
A trucker unwittingly slammed into a raised manhole cover hidden in a bank of snow as he cruised along Jillson Avenue on Jan. 26, bending a running board. A woman struck a gaping pothole on Diamond Hill Road on Feb. 9, damaging two of the rims on her car.
Another man watched in horror as a plow backed into a cement wall during a snow removal operation on Cumberland Hill Road, causing visible damage to the structure.
You can almost feel their pain. Take Lucille C. Dusseault, for example.
“I live at 86 Burrington St.,” she writes. “On 2-8-11 at 11:10 a.m. my car was parked in my driveway – a 2006 Hyundai. The snow plow came up Burrington St. and when it passed my driveway it sent a shower of chunks of ice over the rear part of my car as high as the roof. The damage is a broken tail light.”
The reimbursement requests range from $200 to $1,200, though a fair number of the aggrieved parties advise the city to expect formal appraisals or copies of repair invoices in the coming days.
None of the claimants should expect to get paid immediately, and some may never see any monetary relief for their woes – at least not from the city. While City Solicitor Joseph P. Carroll could not be reached, a spokesperson familiar with the city's policy on claims for weather-related damages says the City Council routinely forwards them to the city's insurance company for review.
If the insurance company determines that the city is liable, the company will send out an adjuster to determine how much should be paid, the spokesperson said.
To better their chances of being reimbursed, victims of nature's fury should file claims with their own insurance company, even if they're already going after the city for damages, the spokesperson advises.