There’s something about driving a big rig on the open road with the wind blowing against your face.
You feel as though you can conquer the world.
However, as you pass through those treacherous roads, you might hear that sickening “Clunk! Crunch!”
Suddenly your road trip is cut short, your bursting energy dwindles, and you start panicking since something terrible has happened to your vehicle.
Well, in most areas around South Africa, poor road conditions, especially those filled with potholes can make that once hyped road trip a nightmare and can even result in vehicle damage or an accident.
In most cases, being startled is the only damage you’ll incur when going over a pothole.
Nonetheless, if the pothole is rooted and you’re trying to be the next Vin Diesel in ‘The Fast & The Furious’ you might be left with some dents and scratches on your ‘baby’ – or worse.
So, one might ask.
What happens if there’s pothole damage1to your car?
Who do you make a claim to?
Lucky for you, here’s a detailed guide to help you understand who’s liable for pothole damage to your car.
Understanding the Nuts and Bolts of Pothole Damage Claim
Poor road conditions make driving challenging for motorists and according to experts, can result in irreparable vehicle damage or worse, fatal accidents. Potholes are the most common sign that a road is deteriorating, and this is a worrying trend in most South African motorways.
According to the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), 48% of Jo’burg’s roads2 have been termed as being in the worst state while a poll by various companies ranks Durban and East London’s roads to be below the required standard.
As almost 80% of the population continues to use these roads frequently and the floodgates of heaven generously bless the earth, the motorway surfaces, on the other hand, decay and form potholes, loose gravel and treacherous pathways.
Therefore, when you hit the pothole on the road with so much force, it leads to wheel and tyre issues like dents, fluid leakages and damage to the suspension and steering alignment.
Even as the public roads sector tries to repair these roads or improve their quality, it still comes with risks. These risks include falling debris from the excavators and road roller machines, accidents involving these construction vehicles, even damage from maintenance holes left open, among others.
So who can you claim from in case of pothole damage?
Where to Make Your Pothole on Road Claim
If your vehicle is damaged after driving over a pothole or through road works, there are particular insurance policies designed for this form of damage. You can claim your Comprehensive Policy3, from the Tire & Rim Insurance Cover and the Scratch & Dent Policy, too.
Nevertheless, since it’s public works sector negligence, you can seek compensation from a road authority (its claim free). In the case where your insurance provider caters for the repair expenses, they can pursue reimbursement for the costs of repairs and replacements from the specific authority.
How the Pothole Claim Process Works
Each roads authority has its procedures and guidelines, which you must follow, strictly. It allows car owners to seek compensation for vehicle damages. If for any reason, you have placed a claim from the wrong agency or didn’t submit the proper information, your case might be dismissed or delayed.
The most crucial thing you have to consider before placing your claim is whether you’ve been driving on a national road like N1 or a municipal road. Claims for pothole damage to vehicles or road works on national roads are mostly governed by The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) 4.
The agency processes the claims themselves or directs it to the liable contractor on that motorway.
If, however, your vehicle is damaged while you’re on the street in your neighbourhood, then you have to approach the local road authority, like the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) to figure out how you can get compensated for the damages incurred.
You also have to remember that this is a severe case and thus it’ll be treated as the standard car insurance claim. So, you have to be mentally prepared that the agency can dispute their liability.
Therefore, you need to offer proof that road works or the potholes on that road are responsible for the damages to your car.
You’ll also be asked to provide them with photos of evidence or a surveillance video showing that the specific road defect is at fault and your vehicle suffered harm as a result. You also have to provide the authority with these documents:
- Your National ID
- Your driver’s license
- Your car’s registration details
- Three written quotes for repair
- A police affidavit
- A letter from your insurer5 confirming that the claim wasn’t logged to your auto insurance
All products are susceptible to wear and tear and in the same manner; roads can’t stat in perfect condition all year long, and that is one of the many reasons why you might end up needing a car insurance write off.
Even though various government authorities are liable to maintain the highways and street paths, you also have to take the necessary steps to avoid damage to your vehicle when driving.
Moreover, pothole damage claim can be a long and tedious process, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Did you know you may also be liable for other’s negligent driving?