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Potholes and insurance


Poor road conditions have cost consumers and the insurance industry at least $27 billion in the last five years, according to a new national survey commissioned by Trusted Choice® and the Big “I.”

The survey found only 31% of car owners who reported pothole damage to their vehicles filed a claim with their insurance company. A surprising 65% of respondents who needed repairs said they or a third party paid out of pocket for the vehicle to be fixed. Only about 3% said local authorities stepped in to foot the bill.

“Potholes and poor road conditions aren’t just an inconvenience—they are an expensive and dangerous result of harsh winters like we recently experienced in many parts of the country,” says Robert Rusbuldt, Big “I” president & CEO.

While motorists in the Midwest, Northeast and North Central regions of the country reported the most pothole damage, the numbers were not much different even in the Southern and Western regions.

Trusted Choice encourages agents to share the following tips with their clients to help them avoid costly damage from potholes:

  • Drive cautiously in areas with known potholes or on roads where you have seen damage in the past.
  • Keep an eye on traffic patterns. A number of cars that slow down or move quickly to other lanes may be a sign of major potholes or road damage ahead.
  • Avoid the urge to swerve out of the way of a pothole at the last minute—you may swerve into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Risking damage to your car is wiser than risking the loss of your life or that of another person.
  • Report major potholes or road damage to your state or local transportation department. Some states and localities have pothole hotlines. Motorists who think their state or local government will pay for damage to their cars may be out of luck. Laws in this area vary by jurisdiction, and even where such remedies are available, conditions may apply such as a requirement that the jurisdiction had notice of the pothole.
  • If you run into a pothole and you suspect damage, pull over as soon as it is safely possible to assess it. If you notice damage, record details of the event and the specific damage—just as you would in the event of a collision with another motorist—in case you need to file an insurance claim. Your independent insurance agent or insurance company will need this information to process the claim.
  • Check in at least annually with your independent insurance agent to ensure that you have the right coverage for your vehicles in the event of pothole or other damage.

The survey was conducted for Trusted Choice and the Big “I” by MFour Mobile Research, Inc. using MFour’s Surveys on the Go Smartphone Application Panel, which includes Apple and Android mobile device users. An independent research company headquartered in Costa Mesa, Calif., MFour conducted interviews of a nationally representative sample of 2,565 U.S. car owners in June 2014, weighing results by age and gender to represent the general U.S. population over age 18.

Margarita Tapia is Big “I” director of public affairs. Sue Nester is Big “I” broadcast media director.

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