Car insurance for pothole damage

Comprehensive car insurance can cover damage from potholes, but only to the rims or wheels.

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Some comprehensive car insurance policies can cover you for pothole damage — specifically, it can help pay for rim damage or more serious damage to the axle or bodywork. But it doesn't generally cover tyre damage, such as a burst tyre. You might be able to make a pothole damage claim to the council though.

When is pothole damage covered by car insurance?

If you have anything less than comprehensive car insurance you can safely assume that you won’t be able to claim pothole damage.

And if you do have comprehensive car insurance, it might depend on what kind of damage your car has suffered.

It varies between insurers, but in many cases you won’t be covered for tyre damage of any kind, however rim damage, and additional damage to the axle, bodywork or anything else might also be covered.

  • If it’s damage to the tyres, rims or wheels only. If it’s just a burst tyre then you might reasonably assume that car insurance won’t cover it. Even if the rim is damaged, car insurance might not cover.
  • If it’s damage to the actual axle, body or other parts that aren’t the wheels. If it was particularly bad, then this damage might be covered as an “accident” or “impact” with a pothole. In this case some insurers might cover all damage, including tyres and wheels, others might cover all damage except the tyres, and others still might pay for the cost of repairs minus the cost of existing wear and tear.

Did you know?

What about specialised tyre and rim car insurance?

Generally, the only kind of car insurance that will explicitly cover damage to tyres and rims from driving over a pothole is specialised “tyre and rim” car insurance.

This is often offered as an extra by car dealers, and may be provided by insurance companies or car manufacturers. If you’re considering it, make sure you look at the cover carefully. It can help cover your wheels for pothole damage, but the quality of this extra cover can vary widely. In the past, ASIC has said that tyre and rim insurance may be overpriced, and of dubious value for money.

How to make a claim for pothole damage

Essentially, pretend the pothole was a bad driver who ran into you.

  1. Gather as much information as possible. Record the time and place of the incident, and the description of the pothole’s size, place in the road and “home address” as closely as possible. Give a description of the accident, and how you ran into the pothole, including the direction and speed you were travelling. It may be a good idea to sketch a quick scene of the incident while it’s still fresh in your mind.
  2. Document the damage. Move the car off the road if safely possible, and document the damage to your vehicle as soon as you reasonably can. It’s a good idea to take photos of the damage and pothole itself as clearly as possible. Your main goal here should be to effectively prove that the damage was caused by the pothole. If necessary, add something into photographs of the pothole for a sense of scale.
  3. Work out whether or not you can drive away. If it’s not safe to drive the car then don’t. If it causes further damage then your claim might be jeopardised. If you can’t drive away, contact the relevant roadside assistance or towing service.
  4. Contact the insurer. You may want to contact the insurer as soon as you can, to see if you can get any approval for emergency repairs or access roadside assistance services. You’ll generally want to contact the insurer before getting any repairs done.
  5. Make a claim. When possible, send in all the relevant information and claims forms to the insurer. This should include a thorough description of damage, details and everything else found on the claim form.

Am I classified as at fault for pothole damage?

It may depend on the circumstances, but typically yes, you will be classified as at fault.

This will be the case unless you can point at another party who was at fault instead, and provide their details so your insurer can claim compensation from them (or their insurer).

Unless it’s a very special situation, like if another driver forced you into the pothole, then typically the only other party who might be at fault is the local council.

In Australia, it’s possible to find the council liable for damage to your car caused by a pothole, but it works different in each state. Generally it won’t be easy.

Can I hold the council liable for pothole damage?

In Australia, it’s possible to find the council liable for damage to your car caused by a pothole, but it works different in each state. Generally it won’t be easy, and it won’t be enough to simply say that the council should have fixed it and is therefore responsible for all potholes.

In New South Wales, for example, you need to demonstrate negligence on the part of the council.

This means the council must have been made aware of the pothole, and must have been able to address the issue within the scope of its available resources, but for some reason didn’t, or it did but it was a bad job.

If you’re looking for someone to pay for pothole damage to your car, it’s probably easier to go to your car insurance provider than a lawyer.

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