Car insurance sometimes covers vehicle damage caused by hitting a pothole. And in some cases, you can hold the city or county liable for damage to your car caused by poor road conditions. Compare scenarios when you are and aren’t covered for pothole damage by car insurance and how to get repairs paid for.
When is pothole damage covered by car insurance?
If you have anything less than comprehensive car insurance, you can safely assume that you won’t be able to claim pothole damage. And if you do have comprehensive car insurance, it depends on what kind of damage your car has suffered.
It varies between insurers, but in many cases, you won’t be covered for tire damage of any kind. However, rim damage and additional damage to the axle, bodywork or anything else might be covered by your standard policy.
- If it’s damage to the tires, rims or wheels only. If it’s just a burst tire, you might reasonably assume that car insurance won’t cover it. Even if the rim is damaged, car insurance might not cover it.
- If it’s damage to the actual axle, body or other parts that aren’t the wheels. If it was particularly bad, then this damage might be covered as an accident or impact with a pothole. In this case, some insurers might cover all damage, including tires and wheels, others might cover all damage except the tires and others still might pay for the cost of repairs minus the cost of existing wear and tear. You’ll need to contact your insurer or check your policy details to find out.
- If you hit a pothole and popped a tire. If you have roadside assistance, you can call for service and your insurer will send someone out to attempt a patch or swap your tire for a spare, if you have one. If your tire can’t be fixed or replaced, you can always get a tow. But roadside assistance won’t cover any damage to your axle from, say, driving on a flat tire for too long.
What about specialized tire and rim insurance?
Generally, the only kind of car insurance that will explicitly cover damage to tires and rims from driving over a pothole is specialized tire and rim insurance.
This is often offered as an extra by car dealers and may be provided by insurance companies or car manufacturers. If you’re considering it, make sure you look at the policy details carefully to determine what is and isn’t covered. It can help cover your wheels for pothole damage, but the quality of this extra coverage can vary widely.
How to make a claim for pothole damage
To make a claim for comprehensive coverage, pretend the pothole was a bad driver who ran into you.
- Gather as much information as possible. Record the time and place of the incident, and the description of the pothole’s size, place in the road and adress/location as closely as possible. Give a description of the accident and how you ran into the pothole, including the direction and speed you were traveling. It may be a good idea to sketch a quick scene of the incident while it’s still fresh in your mind.
- Document the damage. Move the car off the road if safely possible, and document the damage to your vehicle as soon as you reasonably can. It’s a good idea to take photos of the damage and pothole itself as clearly as possible. Your main goal here should be to effectively prove that the damage was caused by the pothole. If necessary, add something into photographs of the pothole for a sense of scale.
- Work out whether or not you can drive away. If it’s not safe to drive the car then don’t; if you do and it causes further damage, your claim might be jeopardized. If you can’t drive away, contact the relevant roadside assistance or towing service.
- Contact the insurer. You may want to contact the insurer as soon as you can, to see if you can get any approval for emergency repairs or access roadside assistance services. You’ll generally want to contact the insurer before getting any repairs done.
- Make a claim. When possible, send in all the relevant information and claims forms to the insurer. This should include a thorough description of damage, details and everything else found on the claim form.
Should I make a claim for car damage after hitting a pothole?
The general rule of thumb is that it’s not always worth it to make a claim if the cost of repairs is less than your deductible.
Say your car’s axle was damaged and it will cost $400 to fix. If you have a $500 deductible, you’ll pay more out of pocket to fix it than repairs cost. You might also see slightly higher insurance rates if this isn’t your first recent claim.
Am I classified as at fault for pothole damage?
It may depend on the circumstances, but typically yes, you will be classified as at fault.
This will be the case unless you can point at another party who was at fault instead, and provide their details so your insurer can claim compensation from them or their insurer.
Unless it’s a very special situation, like if another driver came into your lane and forced you into the pothole, then typically the only other party who might be at fault is the city or county.
It’s possible to find the county liable for damage to your car caused by a pothole, but it works differently in each state. Generally it won’t be easy, and you might need a lawyer’s help.
Can I hold the city or county liable for pothole damage?
In some places in the US, it’s possible to go after the city or county for damage to your car caused by a pothole, but it works differently in each state. While the city should have fixed it and therefore should be responsible for all potholes, it’s not that easy. Most counties will fight any blame, or require specific circumstances in order to be held liable.
In the city of Colorado Springs, for example, the county takes no blame for any damage caused by potholes if it hasn’t received prior complaints about the obstruction. If the pothole had been reported less than two weeks prior to an incident, the city would likely deny the claim on the basis that it takes at least one to two weeks to repair a pothole. Even if you manage to hold your county liable for the damages, there is often a limit on the amount that can be paid out, making it even more difficult to recoup repair costs.
If you’re looking for someone to pay for pothole damage to your car, it’s probably easier to go to your car insurance provider than a lawyer.
Which cities have the most potholes?
Wondering whether you need to worry about potholes where you live? According to a 2016 report by transportation nonprofit TRIP, road conditions are worst in these big metro areas across the US. Watch out, California drivers!
- San Francisco, CA
- Los Angeles, CA
- San Jose, CA
- Detroit, MI
- Milwaukee, WI
- Bridgeport, CT
- Omaha, NE
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Grand Rapids, MI
- Tulsa, OK
- Honolulu, HI
- Cleveland, OH
- Seattle, WA
- New Haven, CT
- San Diego, CA
- Denver, CO
- Chicago, IL
- Baltimore, MD
- New York, NY
- Akron, OH
Whether you’re covered against pothole damages or not depends on whether you have comprehensive coverage or tire and rim coverage. If not, you’ll need to research your policy to find out if you need to make a claim or whether you want to pursue getting repairs paid for by the city for neglecting to repair a pothole.
Compare car insurance policies that cover future damage to your car from bad road conditions.
Compare comprehensive coverage and get covered for pothole damage