If Your Vehicle is Damaged by a Pothole, Will Auto Insurance Cover It?

Will your Auto Insurance Cover Damage Caused by a Pothole?

Navigating the roads can be unpredictable, with obstacles like potholes capable of causing significant damage to your vehicle. The sudden jolt and resulting harm can leave you wondering whether your personal auto insurance will bear the cost of repairs. Understanding how auto insurance policies address such damages is crucial for car owners, highlighting the importance of being well-informed about your coverage.


Understanding Auto Insurance Basics

Types of Coverage: Collision vs Comprehensive

When it comes to safeguarding your vehicle, understanding the difference between collision and comprehensive insurance is crucial. Collision insurance steps in to cover damages to your vehicle resulting from a collision with another vehicle or a stationary object, like a telephone pole. Whether you’re at fault in an accident or collide with an uninsured driver, collision insurance can help cover the costs of the damage. On the other hand, comprehensive car insurance offers protection against damages not caused by collisions. This includes scenarios like theft, vandalism, or natural disasters. It’s the shield against the unpredictable, covering you if, for example, a hail storm causes physical damage to your vehicle entirely.


Pothole Statistics

How many Drivers filed Pothole Claims

In the realm of problems associated with potholes, the statistics speak for themselves. To illustrate, the City of Regina receives approximately 1,000 requests for assistance regarding potholes on an annual basis. According to Tyler McMurchy, spokesperson for SGI, pothole-related claims have reached unprecedented levels in the province. “We have seen 246 claims and that is essentially more than we’ve seen the previous two years combined,” says McMurchy. “2020 and 2021 to the end of May we only saw 241 claims altogether.”

 In regions with cold climates, such as Saskatchewan, the freeze-thaw process is instrumental in the formation of potholes. This issue arises when temperatures fluctuate above and below freezing point on a regular basis. When rain or snow infiltrates cracks and openings in the pavement, it freezes and expands. Consequently, the pavement is forced upwards. As temperatures increase, the ground beneath the pavement returns to its original level, resulting in a void or gap.  “The more traffic on a road, the more pressure on a pothole and the more opportunity and risk for damage,” says Chris Warren, manager of roadways and transportation. Potholes are thus formed as a result of this continuous cycle of freezing and thawing in cold climates like Saskatchewan.


Navigating Auto Insurance Claims

Dealing with Pothole Damages and Deductibles

Many potholes around the city appear to be small but can put a big dent in your pocketbook. McMurchy says SGI does not have a specific category for potholes; they do fall under the umbrella of roadbed collisions. 

In the event that your vehicle collides with a pothole and sustains damage, SGI will cover the incident, except in cases where a tire becomes flat or damaged. Jai Deep, the manager and owner of Value Tire, explains that the most common form of damage occurs on the sidewall of the tire. “[Potholes] do more damage than you realize, and most people don’t realize there is bulging until you tell them,” says Deep. 

Unfortunately, damages to tires, such as the one Deep describes, are unlikely to be covered by your auto insurance. However, there may still be hope for filing an insurance claim, as McMurchy concludes, “If there’s physical damage to, for example, the body of your car or the suspension, you will have coverage there.”

However, submitting a claim for pothole damage usually requires paying your deductible first. If the cost of repairs is less than your deductible, it might be more economical to cover the expenses out-of-pocket. Moreover, if your insurer manages to get reimbursement from the local government, you might get your deductible back.

Submitting a claim for pothole damage is the same process as a regular collision. Motorists can submit the claim via SGI’s Auto eClaim, visit a claims centre, or call SGI. Following the pothole collision, the motorist will have two years to submit their claim, but McMurchy recommends doing so as soon as possible.  


How Prior Claims Affect Future Premiums

It’s important to consider how filing a claim for pothole damage might affect your future premiums. Some insurers may view pothole damage as an at-fault collision depending on the driver’s prior knowledge of the road being damaged for example, which could potentially increase your rates and even suffering driver demerit points. 

Before submitting a claim, weigh the repair costs against your deductible and the potential impact on your insurance premiums

Enhancing Your Auto Insurance Policy

Deductible Options

Choosing the right deductible is a crucial step in customizing your auto insurance policy to fit your needs and budget. A deductible is the amount you pay before your insurance coverage kicks in. You can select a deductible that aligns with your financial situation and risk tolerance. Opting for a higher deductible can lower your monthly premiums, but it means you’ll pay more out of pocket in the event of a claim. Conversely, a lower deductible means higher premiums but reduces your financial burden after an incident. 

Loss of Use Coverage

Life doesn’t pause when your car is out of commission due to damage or theft. Loss of Use coverage ensures you stay mobile by covering the costs of alternative transportation, such as a rental car, public transportation, or taxis, while your vehicle is being repaired or replaced. This coverage is activated from the moment of the claim until your vehicle is fixed; you’re offered a total loss settlement or hit the coverage limit. 

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The most effective method of preventing damage to a vehicle is to steer clear of potholes entirely, although this isn’t always feasible. In situations where avoiding a pothole is unavoidable, Carfax Canada offers these recommendations to minimize the potential harm to your vehicle:

  • Before encountering the pothole, decrease your speed as much as possible and release the brakes at the last possible moment. Applying the brakes shifts the vehicle’s weight forward, resulting in increased front-end pressure. “Braking while in the pothole will exacerbate the impact, leading to more extensive damage.”
  • Exercise caution when driving in heavy rain, and try to avoid driving through deep puddles, as you can never be certain if a sizable pothole lurks underneath.
  • Properly inflated tires are better equipped to handle the pressure exerted by a pothole than tires that are overinflated or underinflated.
  • Regularly check your vehicle’s alignment and consider having the tires realigned twice a year. 

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