THIS is a scenario that many South African drivers know all too well.
You’re driving home through the suburbs one day after some particularly heavy rains and you notice a new, deep pothole that is too late to avoid or slow down.
You flinch as you hit it, grit your teeth and hope your car has not been damaged.
So, what should be your next step if you suspect that the pothole has caused some serious damage?
1. Evaluate the damage
Sometimes, it will be obvious that your car has suffered internal harm. The steering wheel might shake, you may struggle to control your car or might hear funny noises.
In this instance, you need to slow down and pull over in a safe place. Even if the car feels okay, stop as soon as it’s safe to do so and check for visible damage such as a tear in your tyre or buckled rims.
2. Call for help
If you’ve detected internal or external damage, it’s best not to drive for your own safety. If you’re insured, you can arrange for your insurer to dispatch a tow truck. Ask for a flatbed to put the vehicle on to avoid further damage to your car. Ask for your car to be taken to the nearest repair shop that is accredited with your insurer.
3. Document the damage
To make it easier to claim from the insurance or municipality, take photos of the pothole and damage to your car. Take note of the exact location with a pin on your phone. If there are any witnesses, ask for their contact information and account of the incident.
4. Report the incident to the police
As with any accident, you’ll need a case number from the police in order to claim from your insurer. You can file an accident report at the nearest police station or online via the Natis website – as long as no one was hurt.
The next step is to claim from your insurer. If your claim is approved, your insurer will use the police case number to approach the municipality and attempt to reclaim your excess and damage costs. You can also claim directly from the municipality or Sanral if the pothole was on a national road.
According to Sumarie Greybe, co-founder of Naked Insurance, it makes sense to do this if the repair is likely to cost less than your excess. You don’t want the claim on your history for the sake of a couple of hundred bucks. You can also claim from your municipality if you don’t have insurance. The process varies between different authorities, but they will usually ask for the following:
Exact location of the incident;
Photos of the pothole;
Photos of the damage caused to your car;
Contact details of any witnesses;
A photo of the police incident report;
Copy of your driving licence;
Vehicle registration documents;
Copy of your ID;
Three quotes for damages; and
A letter from your insurance company confirming that you are not claiming from it, too.