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

Aug. 16, 2021
4 mins
A black car drives over a pothole in the road

You’re driving down the road when suddenly you hear a bang and feel the vibration shudder through the car and steering wheel. You’ve hit a pothole! Suppose you’re cruising down the highway when a stone flies toward your car, cracking the windshield. With each of these unfortunate events, who pays for the damage?

The answers aren’t simple, but it’s helpful to know your auto insurance company’s responsibilities, the city or other jurisdiction’s obligations, and who covers the repair bill.

Who pays if a pothole damages your car?

If you hit a pothole and your wheel and tire are damaged, your car insurance will cover the damage under the collision or all-perils provision of your policy. There’s a catch, however. You are responsible for paying the deductible first, 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 your options before filing.

The city where the damage occurred may also pay for pothole damage, provided local rules are met. For instance, Toronto has complex rules that determine whether the city will pay for damage resulting from potholes. You are required to submit a claim within 10 days of the date of the incident.

Toronto’s ageing infrastructure and bouts of severe weather – possibly influenced by climate change – have led to potholes becoming a major complaint in the city. Over 84,000 potholes have been repaired from January 1 to August 15, 2021, alone.

In 2020, Toronto drivers made 1,761 pothole damage claims, significantly less than previous years, likely due to a decrease in driving during the pandemic. The city paid around 25% of them.

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Will car insurance pay if road debris hits your car?

If road debris hits your car as it is parked, the comprehensive portion of your auto policy may pay to repair the damage, less your deductible. If you drive over something on the road, your collision coverage may cover the damage. However, collision and comprehensive coverages are optional.

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 accidents 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 may be advisable to pay for the repairs yourself.

Will insurance pay if a landslide damages your car?

If a landslide caused by nearby construction damages your vehicle, 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 to your policy. Your auto policy’s comprehensive coverage usually covers a landslide that damages your vehicle.

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.

RATESDOTCA Team

The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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