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In Canada, the coverage for road hazard damage depends on the type of auto insurance policy you have. Here are the general insurance coverages and how they apply to road hazard damages:

  1. Third-Party Liability Insurance: This is mandatory in Canada and covers damages caused by you to another person or their property. It does not cover damage to your own vehicle from road hazards.
  2. Collision Coverage: This optional coverage pays for damages to your car resulting from a collision with another vehicle or an object (like a guardrail or a tree). If you hit a pothole and damage your car, for instance, collision coverage would typically cover the repairs, less your deductible.
  3. Comprehensive Coverage: This optional coverage pays for damages to your car caused by events other than collisions. This includes things like theft, vandalism, and natural disasters. Depending on your policy and the nature of the hazard, some road hazard damages might be covered under comprehensive coverage. For example, if your windshield is cracked by a flying stone or debris, it might be covered under comprehensive.
  4. Specified Perils: This is another optional coverage that pays for losses caused by perils specifically listed in your policy (e.g., theft, fire, earthquakes). If road hazard damage isn’t a specified peril in your policy, then it won’t be covered.
  5. All Perils: This is the broadest coverage combining both Collision and Comprehensive. It covers all types of damages unless specifically excluded in the policy.

A few important notes:

  • Always refer to your specific policy details, as coverages can vary.
  • Even if the damage is covered, you’ll generally have to pay a deductible before your insurance kicks in.
  • Frequently making claims, even for small damages, can raise your insurance premiums.

What Is A Road Hazard

A road hazard refers to any potential danger or obstacle on a roadway that can pose a risk to motorists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. Road hazards can be natural or man-made, temporary or permanent, and can vary in size and threat. Recognizing and responding appropriately to road hazards is crucial for road safety.

Here are some common road hazards:

  1. Potholes: These are depressions or holes in the road surface, usually caused by wear and tear or water erosion. They can damage a vehicle’s tires, suspension, or alignment if driven over at high speeds.
  2. Oil Spills: Slick spots on the road, especially after rain, can cause vehicles to skid or lose control.
  3. Debris: This can include fallen tree branches, rocks, trash, parts of broken-down vehicles, or other objects on the road.
  4. Animals: Animals crossing the road, whether it’s wildlife or domesticated pets, can be unexpected obstacles.
  5. Water Accumulation: After heavy rains, water can pool on the road, creating a risk of hydroplaning.
  6. Uneven or Shifting Road Surfaces: This can be due to construction, erosion, or other factors.
  7. Fallen Power Lines: These can pose electrical hazards if they are live.
  8. Broken Traffic Signals: Malfunctioning traffic lights can lead to confusion and accidents at intersections.
  9. Construction Zones: These areas might have a range of hazards, including uneven surfaces, temporary signs, construction equipment, and workers.
  10. Ice and Snow: In colder climates, ice patches or accumulated snow can make roads slippery and treacherous.
  11. Missing or Confusing Road Signs: If signs are missing, damaged, or obscured, drivers might not be warned of upcoming hazards.
  12. Railroad Crossings: Especially those without gates or warning lights can be hazardous if drivers don’t notice an oncoming train.
  13. Blind Curves or Hills: Areas where visibility is limited due to the road’s design can be dangerous, especially if there’s an obstacle or stopped vehicle just out of sight.

Who is responsible for road debris damage


Responsibility for road debris damage can vary depending on provincial laws and regulations in Canada. Generally, provinces and municipalities are responsible for maintaining public roadways and removing debris. However, when it comes to damages caused by road debris, the responsibility can differ depending on the situation and the province involved.

Here’s a general overview province by province:

  1. British Columbia: ICBC (Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) manages most auto insurance claims, including those involving road debris. If you can identify the party responsible for the debris (e.g., a trucking company), you may be able to file a claim against them.
  2. Alberta: Private insurers manage auto claims. Like BC, if you can identify who caused the debris, you might be able to file a claim against them. Otherwise, it might fall under your comprehensive coverage.
  3. Saskatchewan: SGI (Saskatchewan Government Insurance) handles auto claims. If damage is due to road maintenance neglect, the responsible municipality or the province might be held accountable. Otherwise, you’d claim under your own policy.
  4. Manitoba: MPI (Manitoba Public Insurance) manages auto claims. Road debris damage typically falls under your comprehensive coverage, unless another party can be identified as responsible.
  5. Ontario: Private insurers handle auto claims. If the damage is due to negligence on the part of a municipality (e.g., failure to remove debris after being informed), they might be held responsible.
  6. Quebec: The SAAQ (Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec) deals with injury claims, while property damage is covered by private insurers. As with other provinces, if you can identify a responsible party for the debris, you can file a claim against them.
  7. Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island: In the Atlantic provinces, private insurers handle auto claims. The principle remains the same: if a responsible party can be identified for the debris, you may be able to file a claim against them.
  8. Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut: Road conditions can be challenging in these territories. If road debris damage occurs and another party is responsible, you can claim against them. Otherwise, it would generally fall under your insurance.

Regardless of the province, if you suffer damage from road debris:

  • Document everything (photos, location, description).
  • Report major road hazards to the local municipality or relevant department.
  • Check with your insurance provider regarding your coverage.
  • If another party is clearly at fault (like a truck losing its load), gather as much information as possible about them.

What happens when you hit debris on the highway

If you hit debris on a highway in Canada, several things can happen, both from a safety and procedural standpoint:

  1. Safety First:
    • If you hit debris, remain calm, keep control of your vehicle, and pull over to a safe location when it’s possible.
    • Check your vehicle for damages. Some damages may not be immediately apparent, so inspect tires, undercarriage, and other areas.
  2. Document the Incident:
    • Take photos of the debris, the location, and any damages to your vehicle. If it’s safe, photos of the debris in its original location on the road can be especially helpful.
    • Note down the date, time, and location of the incident.
  3. Report the Hazard:
    • Call the local police or highway patrol to report the debris, especially if it poses a threat to other motorists.
    • In some provinces, there might be specific numbers to report highway hazards.
  4. Insurance Claim:
    • Contact your insurance company to report the incident and inquire about filing a claim. In most provinces, damage from road debris would fall under comprehensive coverage.
    • If you believe another party is responsible for the debris (e.g., a truck that lost its cargo), and you have details about that vehicle, provide this information to the police and your insurer.
  5. Liability and Repairs:
    • If the debris was due to negligence (like a poorly secured load from a truck), the party responsible may be liable for your damages. However, proving this can be challenging unless you have clear evidence or witnesses.
    • If you cannot identify a responsible party, or if the debris was a result of natural causes (like fallen branches from a storm), you’ll likely have to rely on your own insurance coverage for repairs, assuming you have comprehensive coverage.
  6. Legal Actions:
    • If damages are significant and a responsible party is identified but unwilling to cover the costs, you might consider legal action. However, it’s essential to consult with an attorney to understand the feasibility and potential outcomes.

How To Avoid Or Handle Common Road Hazards

Avoiding or effectively handling road hazards can make a significant difference in ensuring safe travels. Here are tips on how to deal with some common road hazards:

  1. Potholes:
    • Avoidance: Keep a safe following distance to see upcoming potholes. Avoid water puddles, as they might be concealing deep potholes.
    • Handling: If you can’t avoid a pothole, reduce speed and hold the steering wheel firmly. Don’t brake directly over a pothole; instead, brake before you reach it and release the brake as you pass over.
  2. Wet Roads & Hydroplaning:
    • Avoidance: Reduce speed during wet conditions. Ensure your tires have proper tread depth and are correctly inflated.
    • Handling: If you start to hydroplane, ease off the gas and steer in the direction you want to go. Avoid abrupt steering or braking.
  3. Ice & Snow:
    • Avoidance: If possible, avoid driving during snowy or icy conditions. Use winter tires during colder months.
    • Handling: Brake gently to avoid skidding. If you start to slide, steer in the direction you want to go. Antilock brakes will “pulse” – let them do their work. For non-antilock brakes, avoid continuous hard braking.
  4. Loose Gravel or Stones:
    • Avoidance: Reduce speed, especially in corners.
    • Handling: Maintain a firm grip on the steering wheel and avoid sudden maneuvers. If you begin to skid, ease off the gas and steer in the direction you want to go.
  5. Oil Spills:
    • Avoidance: Look out for rainbow-colored patches on the road, especially after rain.
    • Handling: If you drive over oil, avoid sharp turns and hard braking. If you feel the car slipping, steer in the direction you want to go.
  6. Debris on the Road:
    • Avoidance: Maintain a safe following distance, and always scan the road ahead.
    • Handling: If you see debris, reduce speed and change lanes if it’s safe. If you can’t avoid the debris, try to strike it at an angle while holding the steering wheel firmly.
  7. Animals Crossing:
    • Avoidance: Be particularly cautious at dawn and dusk and in areas with wildlife crossing signs.
    • Handling: If an animal jumps in front of your vehicle, resist the urge to swerve, as this can lead to a more severe accident. Brake firmly and sound your horn.
  8. Blowouts:
    • Avoidance: Regularly inspect tires for wear and ensure they’re inflated to the recommended pressure.
    • Handling: If you experience a blowout, maintain your course and reduce speed gradually. Avoid sudden steering or braking.
  9. Sun Glare:
    • Avoidance: Wear polarized sunglasses and use your visor. Keep your windshield clean.
    • Handling: If blinded by glare, reduce speed, and if necessary, pull over safely until you can see clearly.
  10. Fog:
  • Avoidance: Avoid driving in foggy conditions if possible.
  • Handling: Turn on low-beam headlights or fog lights. Increase following distance, reduce speed, and listen for other vehicles.

Road Hazard Damage and Car Insurance FAQs

road maintenance


  1. Q: Does my car insurance cover damage from road hazards?
    • A: Typically, comprehensive insurance coverage will pay for damage caused by unavoidable road hazards like potholes or debris. However, it’s essential to review your individual policy or speak with your insurance provider to be certain.
  2. Q: I hit a pothole, and my tire burst. Will insurance cover it?
    • A: If you have comprehensive coverage, it might cover the damage. However, if the repair cost is close to or less than your deductible, it may not be worth claiming.
  3. Q: A rock flew up and cracked my windshield. Am I covered?
    • A: Comprehensive insurance often covers windshield damages. Some policies might even offer glass-specific coverage with a lower deductible or no deductible at all.
  4. Q: If debris from another vehicle damages my car, who pays?
    • A: If you can identify the vehicle responsible for the debris, their third-party liability insurance should cover your damage. If you can’t identify the vehicle, you’d typically claim under your comprehensive coverage.
  5. Q: My car got damaged by road construction. Can I claim against the city or province?
    • A: It’s possible but challenging. You’d need to prove negligence on their part, like improper signage or failure to remove dangerous obstacles after being informed.
  6. Q: How do I file a claim for road hazard damage?
    • A: Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. Document the damage with photos, note the time, date, and location, and gather any witness details if available.
  7. Q: Will my premiums go up if I make a claim for road hazard damage?
    • A: It depends on your policy, claim history, and the specifics of the incident. While a single comprehensive claim might not increase your premiums significantly, multiple claims over a short period might.
  8. Q: What if I don’t have comprehensive coverage?
    • A: Without comprehensive coverage, you’re likely responsible for paying out-of-pocket for damages resulting from road hazards unless another identifiable party is at fault.
  9. Q: Can I avoid the deductible if the damage is not my fault?
    • A: If another party is deemed at fault (like another vehicle), their insurance should cover your damages, and you’d typically avoid paying your deductible. However, if it’s a generic road hazard claim under comprehensive coverage, the deductible will usually apply.
  10. Q: What if the road hazard damage causes an accident?
  • A: In this case, both collision and comprehensive coverages might come into play, depending on how the incident unfolded. If another vehicle is involved, their insurance might also be implicated.
  1. Q: How long do I have to report a road hazard damage claim?
  • A: Reporting timelines can vary depending on the insurance provider. However, it’s always best to report an incident as soon as possible. Some policies might have specific time frames, such as within seven days of the event.
  1. Q: Can I choose my repair shop for road hazard damage?
  • A: Typically, you have the right to choose your repair shop. However, many insurance companies have preferred or approved shops that can expedite the process and might offer guarantees on the work.
  1. Q: I swerved to avoid road debris and hit another car. Who’s at fault?
  • A: Fault determination rules vary by province, but typically, if you hit another vehicle from behind or the side while trying to avoid debris, you may be deemed at fault. It’s essential to understand your province’s specific regulations.
  1. Q: Can I get a rental car while my vehicle is being repaired for road hazard damage?
  • A: If you have rental reimbursement or loss of use coverage as part of your insurance policy, you should be covered for a rental car’s cost up to your policy’s limits.
  1. Q: If I notice a road hazard, should I report it?
  • A: Yes, for the safety of all road users, it’s a good idea to report significant road hazards to the local municipality or appropriate authority.
  1. Q: Does my insurance cover the personal items inside my car that were damaged by a road hazard?
  • A: Generally, personal items inside your car might not be covered by auto insurance. You might need to claim such damages under your home or renters’ insurance policy.
  1. Q: Can I claim road hazard damage if I only have third-party liability coverage?
  • A: Third-party liability coverage only covers damages to another person or their property that you’re legally responsible for. It doesn’t cover damages to your own vehicle from road hazards.
  1. Q: If I witness another vehicle losing debris that causes damage, what should I do?
  • A: Safety first. Ensure you’re in a safe position, then try to note the vehicle’s details (license plate, make, model, description). If it’s safe to do so, you can also check on other affected motorists and provide your details as a witness.
  1. Q: Are there any preventative measures I can take to reduce the risk of road hazard damage?
  • A: Regular vehicle maintenance (especially tires), staying alert while driving, keeping a safe distance from trucks or vehicles carrying potential debris, and being extra cautious in construction zones can all help reduce the risk.
  1. Q: If road hazard damage results in injury, what coverage applies?
  • A: Medical expenses and injury-related costs might be covered under your policy’s accident benefits or personal injury protection, depending on your province and the specifics of your insurance.

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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