23 Jan 2020 Is Pothole Damage on my Car Covered by Insurance?
This time of year, it seems like potholes are multiplying. (If anyone else commutes on 495 North, you might know what we’re talking about.)
We know what you’re thinking: Where in the world do these potholes come from and why are there so many in Massachusetts?
Potholes form when water seeps into the ground under pavement. When the water freezes and expands, the pavement also expands. Those annoying potholes form when the water melts or vehicles drive over those spots.
So, you drove over one of those potholes and damaged your car? At Berry Insurance, we work with many drivers like you who are dealing with the consequences of hitting a pothole, so we know how you feel — you’re annoyed, frustrated, and worried about the potential cost of repairing your vehicle.
Don’t worry — we’ll help you navigate the bumpy road of pothole damage.
Let’s start with the basics.
Am I at fault?
Typically, drivers are considered at fault when they hit a pothole, however, your car insurance may cover depending on the damages, and in rare cases, the city/town where the pothole is may reimburse you.
Below, we will discuss in entirety what to do when your car is damaged from a pothole.
What to do when you hit a pothole:
When you hit a pothole, pull over immediately in a safe location and check your car for damage.
If you get a flat tire from hitting a pothole, insurance or the city/town will not cover, but other damage (such as bent rims, broken hubcaps, scratched bumpers) may be, so take photos of any noticeable damage.
Take pictures and record the location of the pothole. Although the process for submitting a claim may vary, having the proper proof of the incident will always be necessary.
Once you’ve properly recorded all the damage and have returned home safely, determine who oversees the street the incident occured on. If you call the town where the pothole is, they should be able to tell you who manages the road.
Lastly, get an estimate for the amount of damage that was caused to your car in case it is required in the claims process.
How to submit a claim to the city/town:
In most cases it’ll be up to the driver to fix the damage caused to their car, but there are some instances where claims can be submitted to Massachusetts’ cities and towns.
Although it is not common, the city/state where the pothole is can be considered at fault if they have been notified about the pothole, and have not fixed it despite having plenty of time to do so.
However, proving the town was notified about a pothole and given adequate time to repair it is up to you.
If you don’t want to go through your insurance, submitting a claim to the city or town might be worth a shot.
Each city or town’s process may differ, but when submitting a claim, you should be equipped with the proof of the incident (including photos and pothole location) and estimate for the damages to your car.
Begin by researching if a town/city has a pothole reimbursement policy.
Some Massachusetts towns have their pothole reimbursement policy listed on their website. If not, call a town/city representative — they should be able to guide you through their specific process for submitting a claim.
Submitting a claim and proving the city/town is at fault may be challenging and time-consuming, but if you are up for the task, it could be an option for you.
If your claim is rejected, or if you decide the process is not worth the time and effort, you may want to go directly to your insurance company.
How to submit a claim to your insurance company:
If you want to submit a claim for damage from a pothole, (again, besides flat tires) it should be covered under your collision insurance deductible.
If the damage is less than your deductible, you will have to pay the cost of repairs. If the damage is more than your deductible, you must decide if it’s worth submitting a claim against your insurance policy.
If you don’t submit a claim through your insurance, you will have to pay for the entire repair upfront. If you submit a claim, insurance will pay for the damages after you pay the deductible. However, if they pay out more than $1,000, it could be a surchargeable event and raise your premium.
When submitting a claim, you will need to know when and where the incident happened, what the damage is and if there were any other vehicles involved.
After submitting a claim, it will be assigned to an adjuster who will assess the damage.
How to prevent pothole damage:
Of course, the best case scenario is avoiding the damage in the first place. Potholes can cause serious damage to your car. So if maneuvering around them isn’t an option, make sure you take these precautions:
- Check that your tires are properly inflated before getting on the road.
- Slow down when the pothole is in view. Going as much as 35 mph over a pothole can cause damage.
- Drive through puddles with caution — they might be disguising a pothole.
- Hold your steering wheel firmly, so you do not lose control.
How to report potholes in Massachusetts:
Reporting potholes in Massachusetts might seem a bit pointless, but it’s an important part of keeping our roads safe. Repair crews can’t be expected to know exactly where the most severe potholes are located without the help of Massachusetts drivers.
And remember: cities and states may only be considered at fault for pothole damage if the pothole has been reported.
What should you do if you see a pothole? First, determine if the road is maintained by a town/city, county or the state. Once you know this, call the appropriate authorities (i.e. municipal highway department or local police) to report the damaged roadway.
Pothole Hotline: (857) DOT-INFO
Toll Free Pothole Reporting: (877) MA-DOT-GOV
When reporting potholes, be as precise as possible with the location details. This is especially important when making reports of potholes on the highway.
Potholes aren’t going anywhere:
Unfortunately, new potholes are always forming and while the frigid temperatures are still here, any pothole repair is temporary. Until warmer weather arrives, a permanent solution is not an option.
We hope these universally-hated road craters aren’t causing you or your car any trouble this winter, but if they are, Berry is here to help you through the Massachusetts auto claims process.