Potholes are an all too common sight on South Africa’s roads, and they can cause a lot of damage.
According to Naked Insurance, these are the steps that you should follow in the event that you hit a bad pothole.
Assess the damage
The first step after hitting a particularly nasty pothole is to pull over and assess the damage.
“Sometimes, it will be obvious that your car has suffered internal harm,” said Naked.
“The steering wheel might shake, you may struggle to control your car, or you might hear some funny noises.”
However, even if it’s not immediately obvious that the car has been damaged, it’s still recommended you pull over to check for visible signs of damage, such as a dented or torn tyre, or a cracked wheel rim.
In more extreme cases, the undercarriage of the car may have also been damaged, in which case continuing to drive the car may result in further harm to the axles or suspension.
A pothole can also throw off your car’s wheel balance, resulting in skewed steering that should be addressed as soon as possible.
After assessing the extent of the damage, you may then need to call for assistance.
Call for assistance
If you have determined that the car is unsafe to drive and are insured, you should be able to call for your insurer to dispatch a tow truck, said Naked.
Ideally, ask for a flatbed so as to avoid further damage to the vehicle, and take your car to the nearest repair shop that is accredited with your insurance provider, it added.
Most insurers offer free towing for 30-50km. Anything further than that and you will have to pay for the additional towing cost, said the insurance company.
Naked also warned that insurers will not pay for additional damage done to a car that has been driven after hitting a severe pothole.
Those who are not insured can turn to the AA for help, but will have to pay for the tow if they are not a member.
Document and report the damage
To make it easier to claim from your insurance provider or the municipality, it is recommended that you take photos of both the pothole and the damage to your car, said Naked.
Furthermore, it advises that you take note of the location of the pothole with a location pin on your phone, and to get the contact details of any witnesses and their account of the incident.
As with any vehicle accident, you will need a case number from the police to claim from your insurer, it said.
You can file an accident report at the nearest police station or online via the Natis website.
In order to claim from your insurer, you will need the following:
- Pictures of the pothole
- The location of the incident
- Contact details of any witnesses
- A photo of the police incident report
- Pictures of the damage sustained by your car
If your insurer approves the claim, they will use the case number to approach the municipality to claim the cost of the damages and your excess.
If the pothole was on a national road, you can also claim directly from SANRAL or the municipality.
Naked recommends you do this if the repair is likely to cost less than your excess, as you don’t want to have a claims history over small sums, it said.
The process for claims can vary between municipalities, but they should usually ask for the same details as an insurance provider, as well as the following:
- Copy of your ID
- Quotes for the damages
- Copy of your driver’s licence
- Vehicle registration documents
- A letter from your insurer confirming you are not claiming from them as well
Finally, Naked provided a set of tips for avoiding potholes and minimizing damage when you are unable to:
- Drive carefully and don’t exceed the speed limit
- Keep your tyres correctly inflated to minimize damage
- Be careful in the rain and assume that puddles may be disguising potholes
- If you can’t avoid a pothole, slow down before you hit it, but do not brake while driving through it
- Watch other drivers – if others are swerving it means there may be a pothole or other obstacle to avoid