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HomeCar Insurance ResourcesIs Pothole Damage To My Vehicle Covered By Insurance?

Whether pothole damage to your vehicle is covered by insurance largely depends on the type of auto insurance coverage you have and the regulations within each province. Here’s a general overview for Canadian provinces:

  1. British Columbia (BC):
    • Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) provides insurance. Collision coverage might cover pothole damages, but drivers must weigh the cost of the repair against the deductible and potential premium increases.
  2. Alberta:
    • Private insurance market. If you have collision or all-perils coverage, damage from hitting a pothole might be covered. Again, considering the deductible is important.
  3. Saskatchewan:
    • Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) offers basic plate insurance, but pothole damage may only be covered under an additional collision policy.
  4. Manitoba:
    • Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) provides basic auto insurance. Collision coverage is needed for pothole damage.
  5. Ontario:
    • Private insurance market. Collision or all-perils coverage typically covers pothole damages.
  6. Quebec:
    • A mixed system. The Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) covers injury, but for pothole vehicle damage, you’d need collision coverage from a private insurer.
  7. Newfoundland and Labrador:
    • Private insurance market. Collision coverage may cover pothole-related damages.
  8. New Brunswick:
    • Private insurance market. As with other provinces, collision or all-perils coverage is typically required.
  9. Prince Edward Island (PEI):
    • Private insurance market. Collision coverage is necessary for pothole damage.
  10. Nova Scotia:
    • Private insurance market. Collision or all-perils coverage may cover the damage.
  11. Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut:
    • Private insurance markets. Generally, collision or all-perils coverage is needed.


  • Not all damages from potholes will exceed the deductible, so drivers should weigh the costs before making a claim.
  • Making a claim might affect future premiums, so it’s essential to consider the long-term costs.
  • Municipalities or provincial road services might have compensation programs for damages caused by potholes, but this varies and may require proving negligence in road maintenance.

How potholes can damage your car?

Potholes can cause a range of damages to vehicles, from minor to severe. Hitting a pothole, especially at high speeds or in a vehicle with low ground clearance, can impact various parts of your vehicle. Here’s how potholes can damage your car:

  1. Tires: This is the most immediate point of contact with a pothole.
    • Can cause punctures or cuts.
    • Might lead to sidewall bulges.
    • Can wear down the tire tread prematurely.
    • Can break or damage the tire’s internal structure.
  2. Wheels:
    • Can cause bending or cracking of rims.
    • May result in aesthetic damage like scrapes or gouges.
  3. Suspension: Designed to absorb impacts, but a sudden jolt from a pothole can be too much.
    • Misalignment of the suspension system.
    • Damaged shocks and struts.
    • Broken ball joints or other suspension components.
  4. Steering:
    • Misalignment, leading to your vehicle pulling to one side.
    • Damage to steering components can compromise the ability to steer the vehicle safely.
  5. Undercarriage:
    • Can cause scrapes and damage, especially in cars with low ground clearance.
    • Potential damage to the exhaust system, leading to leaks or noise.
  6. Brake System:
    • Damage to brake system components can compromise the braking ability of the car.
  7. Fluid Containers:
    • Potholes can cause cracks or breaks in containers holding various fluids like oil or coolant, leading to leaks.
  8. Exhaust System:
    • Can suffer dents, holes, or become misaligned, leading to louder noise or reduced efficiency.
  9. Body and Aesthetic Damage:
    • Cars with low ground clearance may suffer scratches, dents, or cracks in the bumper, side skirts, or lower parts of doors.
  10. Engine Damage:
  • Though rarer, a severe pothole impact can damage components in the engine bay if the vehicle’s undercarriage makes contact with the road.
  1. Drivetrain:
  • In vehicles with components of the drivetrain close to the undercarriage (like some all-wheel-drive setups), there’s a risk of damage from severe pothole impacts.

Pothole-related damages can lead to safety issues, decrease the lifespan of parts, and may result in costly repairs. It’s essential to inspect your vehicle after a significant pothole hit and address any issues promptly. If you notice changes in the way your vehicle drives (e.g., unusual noises, pulling to one side, vibrations), it’s a good idea to have it checked by a professional.

How to report a pothole and claim for damage

If you’ve encountered a pothole in Ontario and wish to report it or file a claim for damage to your vehicle, here’s a general guide:

Reporting a Pothole:

  1. Determine Jurisdiction: First, determine whether the road is municipal, provincial, or federally managed. Most roads within cities and towns are under municipal jurisdiction, while major highways are often under provincial control.
  2. Municipal Roads:
    • For roads within city limits, you can report the pothole to the city’s or town’s public works or transportation department. Most municipalities have online forms or phone numbers for this purpose.
    • For example, in Toronto, you can use the “311 Toronto” service to report a pothole.
  3. Provincial Highways:
    • If the pothole is on a provincial highway, report it to the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO). They have a contact number and online forms for such reports.

Claiming for Damage:

  1. Document the Damage:
    • Take photos of the pothole, its location, and the damage to your vehicle.
    • Document the exact location, date, and time of the incident.
    • Obtain repair quotes or receipts if you get the damage fixed.
  2. Municipal Claims:
    • If the damage occurred on a municipal road, you need to file a claim with the city or town. The process varies by municipality. Usually, there’s a claims department or process outlined on the municipal website.
    • Be aware that many municipalities defend these claims under the “minimum maintenance standards for municipal highways” defense, which can make it challenging to get compensation.
  3. Provincial Highway Claims:
    • For damages on provincial highways, submit a claim to the MTO. The MTO has guidelines and forms for property damage claims on its website.
    • Like municipalities, the province might also defend claims based on maintenance standards, making successful claims more difficult.
  4. Insurance:
    • Depending on your insurance coverage (e.g., collision), you might be able to claim the damage with your insurance provider. However, weigh this option against potential increases in your premium and the amount of your deductible.
  5. Legal Advice:
    • If your claim is substantial and you’re facing challenges, consider seeking legal advice. Some lawyers specialize in such claims and can guide you through the process.

Remember, it’s essential to act promptly. There are often time limits for making claims, especially with governmental entities.

Is Hitting A Pothole An At Fault Accident

Car hit a pothole

Hitting a pothole is typically considered a single-vehicle accident. In most jurisdictions, if you file an insurance claim for damages caused by hitting a pothole, it may be considered an “at-fault” accident from the perspective of your insurance company, because there isn’t another party to blame for the collision.

Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Collision Coverage: If you have collision coverage and you file a claim for pothole damage, it’s processed under this coverage. While you may be deemed “at-fault” for insurance purposes, it’s essential to understand that this doesn’t carry the same connotation as being at fault in a two-car collision. It merely means that there’s no other party to attribute the damage to.
  2. Comprehensive Coverage: Some insurers might classify hitting a pothole as a comprehensive claim rather than a collision claim, especially if the incident involved factors beyond the driver’s control. Comprehensive claims usually don’t count against you as an “at-fault” accident. However, this classification varies by insurer and jurisdiction.
  3. Impact on Premiums: Even if the incident is considered “at-fault,” it may or may not affect your premiums. Factors like your driving history, the severity of the claim, and your insurance company’s policies will play a role. Some insurance companies might offer accident forgiveness for the first at-fault accident.
  4. Deductibles Apply: Regardless of how it’s classified, if you file a claim for pothole damage, you’ll typically be responsible for paying your deductible, unless your policy states otherwise or another arrangement exists (e.g., some municipalities may compensate for damages caused by potholes, though this is rare and usually requires proving negligence in road maintenance).
  5. Reporting: If you’ve hit a pothole and damaged your car, it’s essential to report the incident to the appropriate municipal or provincial authority responsible for road maintenance, even if you decide not to make an insurance claim.
  6. Consider Costs: Before filing a claim, weigh the cost of repairs against your deductible and the potential impact on your insurance premiums. If the damage cost is only slightly above your deductible, it might not be worth filing a claim.

Do you have to pay a deductible if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole?

Whether or not you have to pay a deductible if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole depends on your insurance coverage and how the claim is classified:

  1. Collision Coverage:
    • If the pothole damage is claimed under collision coverage, you will typically have to pay the deductible associated with that coverage.
    • The amount you’ll need to pay is whatever your collision deductible is set at (e.g., $500, $1,000).
  2. Comprehensive Coverage:
    • Some insurers might classify damage from potholes as a comprehensive claim, especially if the incident involved factors beyond the driver’s control.
    • If claimed under comprehensive coverage, you’d pay the comprehensive deductible, which might be different from the collision deductible.
    • Note: Not all insurers will classify pothole damage under comprehensive coverage; it varies by insurer and jurisdiction.
  3. Liability-Only Policy:
    • If you only have a liability-only policy, it doesn’t cover damages to your own vehicle from potholes, so there wouldn’t be a deductible to consider because there wouldn’t be coverage in the first place.
  4. Municipal or Provincial Claims:
    • In rare cases, if you successfully claim the damage with the responsible municipal or provincial entity (due to their failure to maintain the road), you might get compensated without having to go through your insurance, and thus, no deductible would apply. However, these claims can be challenging to prove and win.
  5. Weighing the Costs:
    • Before filing a claim for pothole damage, evaluate the cost of repairs against your deductible. If the repair cost is close to or even less than the deductible, it might not be worth filing a claim.
  6. Claim Impact:
    • Consider potential premium increases when filing a claim. Even if the repair costs are higher than the deductible, if the difference isn’t substantial, paying out-of-pocket might be more economical in the long run, given potential premium hikes after making a claim.

Can I claim damages to my car from potholes?

Yes, you can attempt to claim damages to your car from potholes, but there are different avenues to consider, each with its own set of challenges:

  1. Insurance Claim:
    • If you have collision coverage on your auto insurance policy, it typically covers damages from hitting potholes. However, you’ll likely have to pay the deductible first, and the claim could impact your future premiums.
    • In some cases, the damage might be covered under comprehensive coverage, especially if there are factors that made the pothole unavoidable. Comprehensive claims sometimes have a lower impact on premiums and might have different deductibles.
    • Before filing a claim, weigh the cost of repairs against your deductible. If the repair cost is close to or even less than the deductible, it might not be worth filing a claim.
  2. Claiming from the Responsible Entity:
    • If you believe the entity responsible for maintaining the road (often a municipality or a provincial/state authority) was negligent in its duty, you can try to file a claim for damages directly with them.
    • The process often involves:
      1. Documenting the pothole (photos, exact location).
      2. Documenting the damage to your vehicle (photos, repair estimates or bills).
      3. Filing a claim with the responsible municipal or provincial department.
    • Note: Succeeding in these claims can be challenging. Many municipalities and provinces have “minimum maintenance standards” that provide them with a defense if they can show they were conducting reasonable road maintenance. You often need to demonstrate that they were aware of the pothole and did not take appropriate action within a reasonable timeframe.
  3. Legal Action:
    • If the damage is substantial and you believe you have a strong case against the responsible entity for failing to maintain the road properly, you can consider legal action. However, this is typically a last resort, given the time, expense, and uncertainty involved.
    • It’s advisable to consult with an attorney experienced in such cases to evaluate the strength of your claim and potential recovery versus costs.

Every situation is unique. Always document everything thoroughly and promptly. Whether you’re dealing with your insurance company or a governmental entity, having detailed records will strengthen your case.

In Ontario, if you’ve sustained damage to your vehicle due to a pothole on a provincial highway (not a municipal road), you might consider submitting a claim for reimbursement through the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO). Here’s how to go about it:

  1. Determine Jurisdiction:
    • First, ensure that the road where the damage occurred is under provincial jurisdiction and not municipal. Provincial highways are usually numbered (e.g., Highway 401).
  2. Document Everything:
    • Take clear photos of the pothole, its location, and the damage to your vehicle.
    • Note the exact location (which highway, nearest exit or landmark, lane, direction).
    • Document the date and time of the incident.
    • Obtain repair quotes or receipts if you’ve had the damage repaired.
  3. Submit a Claim to the MTO:
    • You can initiate the claim process by notifying the MTO. The Ministry has a specific process and forms for property damage claims.
    • Visit the official MTO website or contact their offices to get the required forms and details on the claim submission process.
    • Once completed, submit your claim form along with all supporting documentation (photos, estimates, receipts, etc.).
  4. Wait for Assessment:
    • The MTO will review your claim. This process might involve assessing the details provided, checking maintenance records, and determining if the Ministry met its maintenance standards.
    • It’s important to note that even if the MTO’s maintenance standards were not met, it doesn’t guarantee that your claim will be approved. The Ministry will consider various factors in its decision.
  5. Outcome:
    • If your claim is approved, you’ll be notified and reimbursed for the damage (or a portion of it).
    • If the claim is denied, the MTO should provide reasons for the denial.
  6. Considerations:
    • Understand that the process might be time-consuming and that there’s no guarantee of reimbursement.
    • If the damage is minor, weigh the potential reimbursement against the time and effort involved in the claim process.
    • For substantial damages or if your claim is denied and you believe you have a strong case, you might consider seeking legal advice.

Lastly, even if you’re pursuing a claim with the MTO, you can still contact your insurance company. However, be cautious about making a formal claim unless you’re sure you want to proceed, as this could affect your premiums.

How to prevent pothole damage?

Preventing pothole damage primarily involves driving habits and regular vehicle maintenance. Here are some tips to help you avoid or minimize potential damage from potholes:

  1. Stay Alert:
    • Keep your eyes on the road and be vigilant, especially in areas known for potholes or after severe weather conditions which can exacerbate road wear.
  2. Maintain Safe Distances:
    • Leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you. This gives you a better view of the road surface ahead and more time to react to potholes.
  3. Avoid Puddles:
    • Puddles can mask the depth of potholes. If you can safely navigate around them, do so.
  4. Slow Down:
    • If you can’t avoid a pothole, reduce your speed before you hit it, but don’t brake directly over a pothole, as this can cause more damage. Instead, release the brakes just before hitting the pothole to reduce the force of the impact.
  5. Hold the Wheel Firmly:
    • When driving over a pothole, grip your steering wheel firmly to avoid losing control.
  6. Drive with Properly Inflated Tires:
    • Regularly check and maintain your tire pressure. Properly inflated tires can provide a cushion against the impact and reduce the risk of damage.
  7. Regular Vehicle Inspections:
    • Periodically inspect your vehicle’s suspension and alignment. A good suspension can soften the blow of a pothole, and if your vehicle is correctly aligned, it can reduce the potential of tire damage.
  8. Avoid Night Driving in Pothole-Prone Areas:
    • Potholes are harder to spot in the dark. If you’re in an area known for bad roads, try to minimize driving at night or in poor visibility conditions.
  9. Use Caution in Construction Zones:
    • These zones can have uneven surfaces and temporary patches which can act like potholes.
  10. Know the Area:
  • If you drive through the same area regularly, remember where significant potholes are located so you can avoid them in the future.
  1. Listen for Traffic Reports:
  • Some local news stations provide reports on road conditions. Stay informed about areas with significant pothole problems.
  1. Report Potholes:
  • If you spot a pothole, especially a large or dangerous one, report it to local authorities or the responsible road agency. This might not prevent damage to your vehicle, but it could help prevent future incidents for others.
  1. Consider Alternate Routes:
  • If a particular stretch of road is in poor condition and known for potholes, consider finding an alternate route, even if it’s a bit longer.

City of Toronto pothole claim

If you’ve sustained damage to your vehicle due to a pothole in the City of Toronto, you have the option to submit a claim to the city. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to proceed:

  1. Document Everything:
    • Take photos of the pothole, including its size, depth, and location.
    • Take photos of the damage to your vehicle.
    • Note the exact location (street name, nearest intersection, lane) and the date and time of the incident.
    • Obtain repair quotes or bills if you’ve repaired the damage.
  2. Submit a Claim:
    • Visit the City of Toronto’s official website to access the claims process. Look for a section on property damage or liability claims.
    • You’ll need to provide details about the incident, your personal contact information, and any evidence/documentation you’ve collected.
    • Claims can be mailed to the City Clerk’s Office, but ensure you keep copies of all documents for your records.
  3. City’s Review:
    • Once the claim is submitted, the City’s insurance adjuster will review it. This review process may involve checking the city’s maintenance records and determining if the City met its maintenance standards.
    • The City of Toronto, like many municipalities, follows “minimum maintenance standards” for roads. If the City can demonstrate that it met these standards, your claim may be denied.
  4. Outcome:
    • You will be notified of the outcome of your claim. If it’s approved, you may be reimbursed for all or a portion of the damage. If denied, the City should provide reasons for the decision.
  5. Considerations:
    • Understand that submitting a claim doesn’t guarantee compensation.
    • The process can be lengthy and requires patience.
    • If the damage amount is minor, weigh the potential compensation against the time and effort involved in the claims process.
    • For significant damages or if your claim is denied and you believe you have a strong case, you might consider seeking legal advice.
  6. Reporting Potholes:
    • Even if you don’t intend to file a claim, you can still report the pothole to the City of Toronto to get it repaired. The 311 Toronto service allows residents to report potholes and other road issues.

Car damaged by a pothole who is liable

When your car is damaged by a pothole, determining liability can be complex, and it often depends on local laws, the specifics of the incident, and the circumstances surrounding the road’s maintenance. Here’s a general overview of potential liability:

  1. Governmental Entities (Municipal, State, or Provincial Authorities):
    • Roads are typically maintained by governmental entities, whether they are city, county, state, provincial, or even federal agencies.
    • These entities have a responsibility to maintain roads in a reasonably safe condition for motorists. If they fail to repair a known pothole within a reasonable amount of time or if the pothole results from negligent roadwork, they might be held liable for damages.
    • However, many governmental entities have established “minimum maintenance standards” or similar guidelines. If they can show they followed these standards, they might not be held liable.
    • There’s often a limited window of time to file a claim against a governmental entity, and specific procedures must be followed.
  2. The Driver:
    • If a driver isn’t paying attention to the road, is driving too fast for conditions, or isn’t practicing safe driving habits (like not maintaining a safe distance from the car ahead), they might bear some responsibility for hitting a pothole and the resulting damage.
    • In insurance terms, if a driver claims pothole damage under their collision coverage, the incident is often deemed an “at-fault” accident, meaning there’s no other party to assign blame to.
  3. Third Parties:
    • In some cases, a third party might be responsible. For instance, if a construction company did roadwork and negligently left a hazardous pothole, they could potentially be held liable.
    • Evidence of this negligence would be crucial in such cases.
  4. Insurance Considerations:
    • Depending on your auto insurance policy, damages from potholes might be covered under collision or comprehensive coverage. However, you’ll often have to pay a deductible, and the claim may affect your future premiums.
  5. Practical Steps for Claiming:
    • If you believe a governmental entity is liable, document everything (the pothole, damage, location, date, time) and report the pothole to the responsible agency.
    • Consider submitting a claim to the responsible entity. If they deny the claim or if you’re unsatisfied with the outcome, you might consider legal action, though this should be a last resort and after consulting with legal counsel.
    • If the damage is severe, you should also report it to your insurance company. They might opt to compensate you (minus your deductible) and then seek reimbursement from the responsible entity, a process called subrogation.

Pothole Damage and Car Insurance FAQs


  1. Is pothole damage covered by car insurance?
    • Answer: Pothole damage may be covered if you have collision or comprehensive coverage, depending on your policy and how the damage occurred. Always check your individual policy details or consult with your insurance provider.
  2. Will my premiums go up if I make a claim for pothole damage?
    • Answer: It’s possible. Claiming for pothole damage under collision coverage might be considered an at-fault claim, which could affect future premiums. However, each insurance company’s policies differ, so it’s essential to discuss potential impacts with your insurer.
  3. Do I have to pay a deductible for pothole damage?
    • Answer: Yes, if you make a claim for pothole damage under your collision or comprehensive coverage, you’ll typically have to pay the corresponding deductible before your insurance covers the remaining repair costs.
  4. Can I claim damages from the city or municipality instead of using my insurance?
    • Answer: In many jurisdictions, you can file a claim with the responsible municipal or provincial entity for damages caused by potholes. However, these claims often require proving that the entity was negligent in maintaining the road, which can be challenging.
  5. How soon should I report pothole damage to my insurance provider?
    • Answer: It’s advisable to report any significant damage as soon as possible. Prompt reporting ensures that any claims processes are initiated without delay and that you fulfill any timely reporting requirements set by your insurer.
  6. What if the pothole damage is less than my deductible?
    • Answer: If the cost of repairing the pothole damage is less than or close to your deductible, it might not be worth filing a claim since you’d be paying out-of-pocket anyway and a claim could potentially impact your premiums.
  7. What should I do immediately after my vehicle is damaged by a pothole?
    • Answer: Document the damage and the pothole (photos, location, size, depth), obtain repair quotes, and consider reporting the pothole to the responsible road agency. If the damage is significant, contact your insurance company to discuss potential claims.
  8. Can I choose where to repair my vehicle after pothole damage?
    • Answer: Often, you can choose where to have your vehicle repaired, but some insurance companies might have preferred repair shops or partnerships that offer certain benefits or guarantees. Check with your insurer before proceeding with repairs.
  9. If I avoid a pothole and hit another vehicle, how is that covered?
    • Answer: If you swerve to avoid a pothole and end up hitting another vehicle or object, that would typically be covered under your collision coverage. However, this could also be considered an at-fault accident, potentially impacting your premiums.
  10. Is damage from a pothole considered a collision or a comprehensive claim?
  • Answer: Pothole damage is typically filed under collision coverage. However, some insurers might classify certain situations as comprehensive claims, especially if factors made the pothole unavoidable. Consult with your insurance provider to understand how they categorize such damage.

About the Author: Valerie D. Hahn

Valerie is an insurance editor, journalist, and business professional at RateLab. She has more than 15 years of experience in personal financial products. She strives to educate readers and ensure that they are properly protected.

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