Does Your Auto Insurance Cover Pothole Damage?

Insurance Articles

Potholes are the bane of every car owner's existence and sudden, unexpected discovery of one can be a rather jarring experience. Unfortunately, it could also be one that winds up lightening your wallet. A recent AAA study found that potholes cost U.S. drivers approximately $15 billion over the last 5 years, with most repairs averaging $300.

Instead of paying for pothole damage out of pocket, you might be able to take care of it through your auto insurance provider. However, you might want to double-check your current auto insurance policy before you decide to file that claim.

How Potholes Can Damage Your Vehicle

Potholes can do quite a number on your vehicle if you're not careful. In most cases, your tires and wheels take the brunt of the punishment, followed by your shocks, struts, tie rods, ball joints and steering rack. A particularly nasty pothole can leave cuts and gouges in tires that lead to slow leaks and severe wheel vibrations. In some cases, a pothole impact can cause a blowout and even shatter certain alloy wheels.

A hard hit can also cause severe damage to your shocks, struts, tie rods and other suspension components. It can even throw off your vehicle's wheel alignment, leading to accelerated tire wear and unnatural steering pull.

Check Your Collision Coverage

In most cases, your auto insurance policy will cover damages directly caused by an encounter with a pothole. But there's a catch - that coverage is available only if you have collision coverage in addition to your standard liability coverage. Collision coverage is an optional add-on that covers damage caused by a collision with an object or another vehicle. Fortunately, potholes are usually included in the "object" category.

But what if you have comprehensive coverage instead of collision coverage? Unfortunately, comprehensive coverage only handles damages and losses resulting from vandalism, theft and a variety of natural phenomena including flooding and hail. Your standard liability coverage won't cover pothole damage – liability coverage usually covers the injuries of any driver or pedestrian you hit.

Coverage Exceptions

Keep in mind that your collision coverage will only cover damages that are directly the result of an impact with a pothole. If you puncture a tire and shatter an alloy wheel or break a suspension component after nailing a pothole, you'll be able to cover it using your collision coverage.

You won't be able to cover ordinary wear and tear that occurs after your encounter with a pothole. If your tires wear down prematurely in the aftermath of a pothole impact, for instance, you won't be able to file your claim.

It's also a good idea to check your collision coverage deductible before filing a claim. If the deductible amount is more than the quoted cost of repairing the pothole damage, then you may be better off paying for the damage out of your own pocket. This doesn't apply if you have zero deductible coverage, since you can file your claim without having to spend a dime on deductibles.

Alternatives to Insurance

If your insurance does not cover pothole damage for some reason, you may be able to file a claim with the government agency responsible for maintaining the road where the pothole damage occurred. This process isn't as simple as going through your own insurance and there are a number of stumbling blocks that could easily derail your claims process.

For example, you'll have to find out which agency is actually responsible for the offending stretch of road. Afterwards, you'll have to make sure the agency not only knew about the pothole but also failed to take care of it in a timely manner. Also keep in mind that filing a claim through your local municipality may take significantly longer than if you had handled the claim through your own auto insurance.

For more information, contact your auto insurance company. 


28 March 2016

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