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Potholes, Landslides, and Road Debris: Who Pays for the Damage to Your Car?

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You're driving down the road when suddenly - BANG! You feel the vibration shudder through the car and steering wheel. You've hit a pothole! Or, you're peacefully cruising down the highway and something flies toward your car. Bam! A stone has cracked your windshield.

Is this enough road disaster for one day? Think about the driver who parked in an area that was hit by a summer wildfire. Now it's begun to rain -- and a landslide has covered much of his car.

With each of these unfortunate events, who will pay for the damage? The answers aren't simple, but it's helpful to know what your insurance company's responsibilities are, what the city or other jurisdiction's responsibilities are, and how the damage will best be repaired.

Who Will Pay if My Car is Damaged By a Pothole?

If you hit a pothole and your wheel and tire are damaged, your car insurance will cover the damage under the collision provision of your policy. There's a catch, however. Remember your insurance policy deductible? You will be responsible for paying this portion of repairs, so if you have a $1,000 or $500 deductible and the pothole damage is less than this amount, it makes no sense to file a claim. A collision claim for a pothole will also be deemed an ‘at-fault’ claim by your insurance company, so make sure to consider this before filing a claim – it could increase your rates!

The city where the damage occurred may also pay for pothole damage, provided that local rules are met. Toronto has complex rules that determine whether the city will pay for damage resulting from city potholes. You can file a claim via the city's website. In 2011, a study found that Toronto denied 96 percent of pothole claims.

By 2018, Toronto's aging infrastructure and recent bouts of severe weather -- possibly influenced by climate change -- have led to potholes becoming a major complaint in the city, with over 20,000 requests for service. Toronto drivers made over 4,000 pothole damage claims in 2018 and Toronto paid 55 percent of those.

Will Car Insurance Pay if My Car is Hit By Road Debris?

If your car was parked when it was hit by road debris, the comprehensive portion of your auto policy will pay to repair the damage, less your deductible. If you were driving and drove over something in the road, this would be covered by your collision coverage. If you are hit by a flying object, this would be covered under the comprehensive portion of your policy.

Keep in mind that if you strike an object in the road it will be deemed an ‘at-fault’ claim by your insurance company. At-fault claims stay on your record for a minimum of six years, and could cause your rates to rise at renewal time.

Just as with pothole damage, the amount of damage done to your car will determine whether it is worth it for you to file a claim. If the damage is less than your deductible or only slightly more, or if you do not want to have an at-fault claim on your record, it’s advisable to pay for repairs yourself.

Will Insurance Pay if a Landslide Damages My Car?

If your car is damaged by a landslide caused by nearby construction, you may be in luck. The construction company may pay to repair the damage caused by their work. They must carry insurance on their project and in some cases, may pay directly to continue their project and maintain good relations with the public.

Landslides are often excluded in home insurance policies, so if you live in an area that's prone to them, you may want to add coverage for your home. A landslide will usually be covered by your comprehensive automotive insurance policy.

Whether you hit a pothole and damage your car's suspension or your windshield is cracked by a rock while you're on the highway, your car insurance will provide coverage within your policy's terms.

Meanwhile, it pays to visit Rates.ca and search for the best car insurance rates in your area.