7 On Your Side helps NJ couple after manhole mishap

ENGLEWOOD, New Jersey (WABC) -- If you have ever hit a pothole just right, you know the damage can cost hundreds to repair.

A New Jersey driver didn't just hit a pothole, she hit a manhole, and the cover flipped over and tore up her car.

But even though there was proof the sewer cap was a problem before the accident, the city wouldn't pay up until we learned trying to get reimbursed is nearly impossible.

Last year New Jersey got nearly 1,300 claims and it paid out a grand total of exactly eight of those claims.

"There was such metal on metal it was just painful, I could feel it in my teeth," said Anita Franzetti, describing the jarring moments she dragged a manhole cover down her parents block on West Street in Englewood.

Her Chevy Traverse was mangled by the heavy metal disk which somehow got caught under her car.

Her tire was completely blown, there was damage to the frame and the back end bumper was pushed out completely.

The estimate to repair it was over $3,000.

The Englewood police showed up and told Anita the sewer cap damage was previously reported.

The officer even noted it right on the police report - "rear tire struck a previously reported damaged sewer cap causing damage."

"I was surprised they knew about it and didn't cordon it off and put barriers up prior to repairing it," said Paul Franzetti, Anita's husband.

But he was even more surprised when the city's insurance denied their claim.

Under state law, they had to file with their own insurance first, so the couple was only seeking a $500 deductible and rental car costs, about $700.

Englewood's insurance agent explained that there was no record indicating a problem with the manhole, writing the city wasn't responsible - because there was "no prior notice of a dangerous condition."

Even though Paul provided the police report, the insurance still denied the claim, so Paul took his fight to City Hall.

"I began emailing the city attorney and I would cc the mayor and the city attorney never got back to me," he said

So we made an appointment with the mayor.

"It's about accountability, if the city has debt they should pay it," said Mayor Michael Wildes. "The moment Channel 7 brought it to my attention, I read the police report and it's a no-brainer. This gentlemen should have been paid from day one."

He was not mayor when the incident happened and the city manager of Englewood had moved on to another job.

But Mayor Wildes made good almost a year after the incident.

The Franzettis got a check for their full reimbursement. "You don't think of it, you just see people you don't know on 7 On Your Side," said Anita. "You don't think it will work for you, so thank you."

"We couldn't have done it without you," said Paul.
The big takeaway:

1) If your car is damaged by running over something in the street, a pothole, a loose sewer grate, a damaged manhole cover, jagged curb, etc., take pictures and video and file a claim with your auto insurance. And get a police report and at least one estimate.

2) Put together the paperwork and file with the municipality. In New York and New Jersey, your deadline to file a claim is 90 days after the incident.

3) Send the documentation via certified mail to prove its receipt.

Remember - you'll only be paid if it's found this was a known problem before your incident - very rare.

----------
SHARE YOUR STORY

Do you have an issue with a company that you haven't been able to resolve? If so, 7 On Your Side wants to help you!

Email 7OnYourSideNina@abc.com, or contact Nina on her Facebook page or tweet her at Twitter @7OnYourSideNY! You can also call the 7 On Your Side Hotline at 917-260-7697 or fill out the form below.

Copyright © 2019 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.