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! Or, you're cruising down the highway, and a stone flies toward your car cracking the windshield.
Or 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 the vehicle.
With each of these unfortunate events, who pays for the damage? The answers aren't simple, but it's helpful to know what your auto insurance company's responsibilities are, what the city or other jurisdiction's obligations are, and who covers the repair bill.
Who pays if a pothole damages my 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 that before filing a claim.
The city where the damage occurred may also pay for pothole damage, provided that 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 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 the city paid 55% of them.
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Will car insurance pay if road debris hits my car?
If your car was parked when it was hit by road debris, the comprehensive portion of your auto policy would 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 a flying object hits you, it 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 may be advisable to pay for the 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 to your policy. A landslide that damages your vehicle is usually be covered by your auto policy’s comprehensive coverage.
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.