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What to do if you hit a pothole

Insurance 101

How to check if your car is damaged after hitting a pothole and claim from your insurance if it is.

Your jaw tenses. Your hands tighten around the steering wheel. It’s almost as if you feel the pain your car feels as you go through the pothole. You hope that it hasn’t done any damage, and most of the time, your car is a-okay. But there’s that one time when it’s not.

The next steps aren’t always clear. Should you take your car to the repair shop straight away? Should you call your insurance company first? Do you need to call a tow truck? It all depends on what damage there is.

Here’s a quick guide on what to do when you hit a pothole:

What to check if you’ve hit a pothole

Check for signs of any internal damage

It is not always safe to immediately pull over but if there has been damage, you might start to feel your steering wheel shake, hear strange noises or feel like your car is uncontrollable. If this is the case, slow down, pull over in a safe place and call for emergency assistance.

Look for any visible damage

If there’s no sign of internal damage, it’s still a good idea to pull over in a safe spot and check for visible damage. Specifically look at your tyres to see if they are flat, torn or popped, but also look at whether your rims are bent. If you find any visible damage then it’s best to not continue driving and call for help.

If you are insured by Naked you can call our towing crew straight from our app and they will assist you right away.

But if there’s no sign of internal or visible damage, it’s still advisable to take your car for a once-over at your nearest tyre centre, especially if you’re worried about how the initial impact felt, and often rebalancing your wheels might be required.

What to do after detecting damage to your car

Call for help

Being stranded on your own on the road isn’t ideal, so you’d want to ensure your safety (and the safety of your vehicle). If you have insurance, you can contact your insurer to send out a tow truck. To ensure the vehicle is not damaged any further, be sure to tell them to bring a flatbed to put the vehicle on.

If you don’t have insurance, you might consider subscribing to a roadside assistance service like AA which will dispatch help ASAP. You can still call them without a subscription, you will just need to pay for the tow out of your own pocket in that case.

Make sure your vehicle is taken to a repair shop of your preference

Ask the tow truck driver to tow your car to the nearest repair shop. Especially if you don’t intend to claim. Your insurer usually limits roadside assistance tows to around 30-50km per trip. If the tow truck driver goes over that limit, you will have to pay the additional towing cost out of your pocket.

Get as much evidence as you can

Take a couple of pictures of the damage to your car as well as a few pictures of the pothole if possible. Obviously, don’t put yourself in any danger. Also try to record the exact location of the pothole – an easy way to do this is to share your location on WhatsApp with one of your contacts – as well as take pictures of any close landmarks. You’ll need this information to claim from your insurer or the municipality.

Lastly, if there are any witnesses, try to grab their contact information and their account of the incident.

File an accident report

Once you and your car are safe, you’ll need to get an accident report from the police. You can do this online (as long as no one was hurt) via the Natis website.

How to claim from your insurer or your municipality

Claiming from your insurer

Once you’ve made your way home safely, you can claim from your insurer. Here are the things you’ll need on hand:

  • The exact location of the incident (The location pin you saved will come in handy)
  • A few pics of the pothole
  • A few pics of the damage caused to your car
  • Contact details of any witnesses
  • A photo of the police incident report

If your claim is approved, your insurer will use the police case number to approach the municipality and attempt to reclaim your excess and the costs of the damages.

Claiming directly from your municipality

If the damages cost less than your excess (the amount you contribute to your insurance claim), it’s probably not worth claiming from your insurer and having the claim sit on your claims history. You can instead claim directly from your municipality. You can also claim from your municipality if you don’t have insurance.

The process is pretty simple, but what you need to send to your local municipality might differ with each municipality. This is generally what is asked for:

  • The exact location of the incident (The location pin you saved will come in handy)
  • A few pics of the pothole
  • A few pics of the damage caused to your car
  • Contact details of any witnesses
  • A photo of the police incident report
  • Copy of your driver’s licence
  • Vehicle registration documents
  • Copy of your ID
  • Three quotes for the damages
  • A letter from your insurance company confirming that you are not claiming from them as well

Tips on how to avoid potholes

Potholes are generally quite hard to avoid, but there are some things to watch out for. Here are a few from a helpful list that Arrive Alive has laid out.

Drive cautiously and stick to the speed limit

The most obvious tip all drivers should be aware of, is to stick to the speed limit and drive cautiously – keeping your eyes on the road. If you use an app like Waze, some people may pop alerts onto the app when there’s a pothole everyone should be aware of, letting you know when to be extra careful. And if it’s raining or hailing, it’s even more important to keep an eye out for potholes and drive slowly – never trust a puddle!

Keep an eye on the drivers ahead of you

If you see drivers ahead of you swerving out of the way, it more than likely means that they are avoiding a pothole.

Regularly check your tyre pressure

Keep your tyres inflated at their correct pressure levels as this can minimise the damage to your vehicle from driving through a pothole.

Maintain a safe following distance

This is especially true when you’re behind big trucks and your view is obstructed. But as a general rule, don’t tailgate other cars as they might swerve to avoid a pothole and it’ll be too late for you to do the same thing.

If you can’t avoid a pothole, slow down

If you know you’re going to hit a pothole, try to slow down and not go full speed through it. The best way to minimise the damage to your car is to brake but not while you are driving through it, as this might increase the damage to your car. Before braking, make sure that there aren’t any vehicles close behind you, to avoid them going into the back of you.

The best case scenario would be to not hit a pothole in the first place, but if you do, you know what steps to follow. Drive safely!

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