Municipalities are obliged to pay the cost of vehicle repairs from pothole accidents if the accident occurred on municipal mandated roads, News24 investigative journalist and former lawyer Jean le Roux says.
But the claims process involves lengthy paperwork, long waiting periods and subject to certain preconditions.
Up to 60% of South Africa’s 535,000 km road network have potholes or are in need of maintenance, the South African Automobile Association claims. Some 80% of pothole-related accidents in SA are considered "severe", damaging the rim and other critical car parts.
Business Insider South Africa spoke to Le Roux to find out how he succeeded in claiming back R1,600 from the City of Tshwane.
Le Roux, 31, was driving along Garsfontein Road in Pretoria on December 5, 2017, when he hit a pothole.
“Pretoria had experienced heavy rains over the preceding few days, resulting in a degradation of some of the roads,” Le Roux explains. “Although I managed to swerve enough to miss the pothole with my front wheel, my back wheel was less fortunate.” He says the next morning he had a flat tyre and a damaged wheel sidewall. “The tyre was still brand new - I had replaced all four my tyres less than two weeks before the incident.”
His first step was to contact the City of Tshwane to establish their claims process.
“I approached it as I would approach any investigation – by gathering and presenting evidence.” Le Roux says he contacted the City of Tshwane, doubtful that they’d be able to help. They informed him that the public liability department would be in contact soon. Two days later, a representative emailed him the required forms, Le Roux says. "It was surprisingly fast and efficient."
Le Roux made sure he documented the damages to his car as proof of the accident.
Le Roux obtained an invoice from the tyre fitment centre, a letter from the fitment centre manager confirming that the tyre could not be repaired and had to be replaced, and photos of the damage to the tyre itself. Le Roux also headed back to the accident site to take photos of the pothole, both up close and from a “driver’s perspective”, and used Google Maps to locate the exact spot of the pothole. “I also contacted my insurers to inform them of the incident, and requested that they provide a letter confirming that they will not cover the loss.” Le Roux attached all the information to the public liability form, and emailed it back to the City of Tshwane officials.
Three months later Le Roux received confirmation that his claim was approved.
Le Roux was “pleasantly surprised and obviously happy” about the reimbursement. “It needed some jumping through hoops, but all in all the experience was not particularly frustrating.”
Le Roux encourages others to also claim for pothole accidents.
“People should lodge legitimate claims in instances where they have suffered damage due to potholes,” Le Roux says. “This keeps the municipality accountable, and ensures that it will take proactive steps to avoid such occurrences. The process is tedious, but considering that [municipalities] must receive their fair share of fraudulent claims, I can fully understand why they would need a lot of the information required,” Le Roux adds.
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