Published: March 2015
Potholes are a fact of life on the road, especially during the winter and early spring months. Harsh weather conditions (particularly, freeze and thaw cycles) contribute to increase the likelihood of potholes and severity of the related damage, according to AccuWeather.com.
Drivers should consider taking steps to prevent pothole damage, such as slowing down before hitting the pothole instead of braking once directly over (or in) the hole. But regardless of prevention efforts, potholes may still cause damage to your vehicle. While some pothole damage is visible to the eye — especially on the wheels and tires — the Car Care Council says that potholes can also damage your steering, suspension and alignment systems. The Car Care Council recommends getting your car checked yearly for damage to these systems as well as after driving on poor roads with potholes. Signs of pothole-related damage include loss of control of the car, pulling in one direction, uneven tire wear, low tire pressure, bulges in the sidewalls and dents in the tire rims.
Some cities, like Chicago and New York, may offer limited compensation under certain circumstances but only after you follow their claim processes. However, you may also be able to make an insurance claim for pothole damage with your own insurance company, and be reimbursed for the cost of repairs minus your deductible. According to Insurance Information Institute, drivers who have collision coverage are covered for damage caused by hitting an objects such as a guardrail, a tree, or pothole. You should check your policy for any exclusions that may preclude you from making such a claim.
It is important to note that normal wear and tear to tires and cars due to potholes is typically not covered by insurance policies. Generally, normal wear and tear due to potholes is damage caused to the tire only. Typically, the vehicle must be damaged in the same pothole collision that damaged the tire. For example, if you hit a pothole big enough to cause front-end damage, the tire damage would also be covered. Further, drivers that hit another vehicle or pedestrian due to a pothole would typically be covered by liability insurance, says the III. This type of coverage generally applies to damage to someone else's property (property damage liability) or injuries to someone else (bodily injury liability), from an accident you caused. But the damage to your own vehicle in this type of accident would only covered if you had collision coverage.
You should periodically review your coverages to ensure they are keeping up with your current needs. Your agent can help you understand the coverages required by your state. You may also want to consider the age and value of your vehicle when determining whether to carry collision or comprehensive coverage.