As spring approaches, most of us are starting to enjoy driving our vehicles. The sun is coming out and temperatures are getting warmer. However, with the melting snow and the deteriorating roads also come with some problems. BEWARE! Pothole, straight ahead! Your tires, shocks and steering can be affected by these small craters. Potholes can wreak severe damages on your vehicle. You get goose bumps just imagining the hefty sum you will need to pay in order to fix your car. But do you know what’s covered by your insurance and what kind of legal action you can take against those responsible for the pothole?
The dangerous and costly side of potholes
Potholes occur in the spring. The following five events combine to create a perfect storm for potholes: a crack in the asphalt, water getting into the crack, a period with freezing temperatures (to make the bottom of the asphalt swell), a thawing period (to soften the asphalt) and vehicles driving over the area (making it all crack).
Potholes come in a variety of sizes and depths. Some can cause a flat tire, damage your suspension or break other expensive parts on your vehicle. That’s why everyone hates potholes!
Potholes can really test your nerves. Take that typical pothole at the corner of your street, for example. Once it fills with water, it becomes invisible, and a pothole that comes out of nowhere can make your hair stand on end.
How can you limit the damage caused by potholes?
The severity of the damage depends on the speed at which the vehicle was travelling, the size and depth of the hole and the diameter of the tire. Here are a few tips to limit the damage.
1. As soon as pothole season rolls around, check the air pressure in your tires. If there is too much air, the tire can burst. Not enough air can cause the tire to get stuck between the hole and the wheel, twisting it on impact.
2. When driving, look all around you (peripheral vision) to have a better chance of spotting potholes.
3. If you see a pothole but you can’t avoid it (without causing an accident), you should simultaneously:
- Hold the steering wheel firmly to maintain control during and after you go over the pothole.
- Slow down as much as possible without slamming the brakes. If you do slam on the brakes, a blocked wheel will get more damaged than a wheel that is still rolling.
Which types of damage are covered by your insurance?
Basic auto insurance (mandatory minimum) doesn’t cover damage caused to your vehicle by potholes, because it only covers damage caused to other vehicles or to other people’s property.
However, if you added “Damage to insured vehicles – Collision or upset protection” to your basic coverage, the damage cost may be reimbursed. If possible, take a picture of the pothole that caused the damage for your insurer.
What types of damage can the pothole’s “owner” be held liable for?
For over 10 years now, cities, municipalities and the Ministère des Transports are no longer liable for damage caused to tires and suspensions by the state of roads, and potholes in particular. That’s the law!
You can still be compensated for damage to the body, paint, wheel or bumper of your vehicle that went over a pothole. You must, however, be able to demonstrate fault or negligence, like inadequate maintenance.
That’s why it’s so important to report potholes as soon as you encounter them…
Once notified, the city (or the Ministère des Transports, if the pothole is on a highway or ramp) must intervene within a reasonable time frame to eliminate the danger. If your vehicle is damaged due to an unreported pothole, you cannot make a claim, because there is no proof that they are at fault.
If you have Legal Access Insurance, this would be a good time to take advantage of it! It will help you navigate the bumpy roads!
In the meantime, exercise caution, vigilance and patience to get through pothole season!