This year's exceptionally rough weather is resulting in an unprecedented number of potholes on our roads and highways. According to the Car Care Council (carcare.org), the average motorist spends an average of $335 a year on damage caused by potholes. Nationally, that amounts to more than $5 billion annually on repairs.
This time of year, we get the question, "Can I file a claim for damage caused by a pothole?" And the answer is, "It all depends."
Figuring Out Potholes and Car Insurance
What's the damage potential?
The most typical damage caused by hitting potholes is damage to your tires and rims. With the high cost of tires these days, it is well worth the effort to slow down before hitting the potholes rather than braking when you are over (or in) the pothole itself. But regardless of your best efforts, when the weather has been this erratic, swinging between deep freezes and spring-like thaws, your tires will see serious wear and tear this year.
But it is the unseen damage that is the most serious and costly. Look for these signs.
1. Loss of control. This includes swaying during routine turns, bottoming out on city streets, and excessive bouncing on rough roads. These are indications that your steering or suspension may have been damaged. These are two key safety-related systems on your car and also impact your car's handling. Key components of these systems include: shocks/struts;steering knuckle; ball joints; steering rack/box; bearings; seals and hub units; and tie rod ends. Repairs to these can be expensive.
2. Pulling in one direction. If you have trouble maintaining a straight path, along with uneven tire wear, you may have an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment not only prolongs the wear life of your tires, it also helps ensure safe handling.
3. Low tire pressure. This is the easiest to spot. Bulges or blisters on your sidewalls or dents in the rim will be visible and should be dealt with immediately.
Can I file a claim?
Here's where it can get tricky. "Normal" wear and tear to tires is not covered by your insurance. Your best bet is to buy the "road hazard warranty" when you buy your tires, according to Consumer Reports. This will replace or repair your tires if damaged on the road. Some dealers offer this at no charge, so it is worthwhile to shop around for one that does.
If you have collision coverage car insurance on your vehicles, this does cover collisions with traffic lights, guardrails, and potholes. However, it is subject to your deductible. So if you have selected a $500 or $1000 deductible to lower your premium, the repair cost will probably not exceed your deductible. If it does, then talk to us to determine if it is worth filing a claim to cover the after-deductible costs. If you'd like a referral to a reliable local repair shop, Keefe Insurance counts several fine auto repair garages among our commercial clients that we'd be glad to recommend.
You are also covered by your liability coverage if you or someone driving your vehicle hits a pedestrian or another car due to a collision with the pothole.
Please note: MA municipalities and towns do not take responsibility for damage caused by potholes or bad road conditions. But according to the Insurance Information Institute, some jurisdictions, like Chicago and New York, MAY pay for some portion of the damage, if you do out of state driving. For more information, visit Insurance information Institute.
When it comes to insuring your family's home, vehicles, possessions and lifestyle, we take our responsibility to keep you properly protected very seriously. The trust you placed in us when you chose the Keefe Insurance Agency means you count on us to keep you informed of things you can do to avoid potential claims.
We are always available during business hours to answer your questions or address your concerns. Stop by or call us at 508-528-3310 or toll-free at 888-528-3310. There is also additional information available 24/7 on our web site for your convenience.
Bob Keras & Peter Brunelli
Keefe Insurance Agency
Bonus! Did You Know?
I recently paid off my car loan. Do I need to report this to the insurance company?
YES! Please call us now you have made your last payment. Your lender has a first lien on the vehicle until it is paid off. In the case of a loss, both your name and the lender's will appear on your claim check until you report the payoff. This will cause unnecessary delays in settling your claim if you have to go back and correct the payoff info after the fact.
I recently retired and don't use my car to commute to work any longer. Will this impact my premium?
Most probably. Many retirees qualify for a low mileage discount because they no longer commute to work. Unless you plan on taking extended driving vacations, you will probably qualify for the discount. But call us as you may qualify for other discounts as well.
I'm talking to a car dealer about a new car. Should I purchase the GAP insurance they are offering?
GAP insurance, that covers the difference between what you owe the lender and the actual cash value of the vehicle for claim purposes, is important to protect your investment. In our opinion, it will be more convenient for you to place your GAP coverage with the same company that insures your car in the event of a claim. Call us for a quote.
Is it worth taking the InControl Driving course?
InControl is a non-profit driver education organization that has been working with the MA RMV since 2008 to train drivers of all ages in crash prevention skills. The program features a closed course at its 4 locations and develops skills that can't be learned through a simulation. Because of its success, about 85% of MA insurance companies offer a discount of around 10% for those who successfully complete the course. Call us to see if your company offers the discount.
This program is particularly valuable for senior drivers. The technology found in late model cars and trucks can be confusing and intimidating to older drivers. Gift certificates are available and would make a great gift for a parent or grandparent who's struggling with the new technology.
If you haven't had a complete review of your insurance protection program recently, maybe it's time for a Spring Spruce Up on your insurance. Things change and with all that goes on in our busy lives, reporting important changes can slip through the cracks. You may be underinsurance or even overinsured! Call us for a comprehensive review if we haven't done one in 2 years.