A client was in rush hour traffic on El Camino in Los Altos, bumper to bumper in all three lanes. As the light turned green ahead, traffic began to move, and our client accelerated with the traffic.
A pothole quickly became visible in our client’s lane, but with both lanes crowded on either side and traffic accelerating behind him, he had no choice but to hit it. “Thump-thump” went the jolting sound—this one hurt! Upon later inspection, it was determined that the tire and the rim were both damaged.
Total repair cost was $3,000+, for the tire, rim, and realignment. This was a marginal claim because his collision deductible is $1,000. He decided he would only pursue the claim if the carrier would not assign him fault for the accident, as he didn’t want it to affect his insurance record negatively.
In a recorded phone conversation with the claims adjuster, he was told this would not be an at-fault accident. He then filed the claim, receiving reimbursement for all except his collision deductible.
Four months later, the client received a letter stating they had changed their mind, and this would be considered an at-fault accident, potentially affecting his future renewal premium. Naturally, the client was angry and pursued this with a claims supervisor. After listening to their own recorded statement, they reversed their decision back to “Not at Fault.”
All is well now, except for the blood pressure spike from the first reversal.
Here’s the interesting thing. In a review of insurance carrier practices, such single car accidents from colliding with a pothole are normally considered to be the fault of the driver. Our client got lucky in the first conversation with the claims adjuster, and the fact it was recorded.
We also learned that it’s sometimes advisable to pursue the matter with the governmental authority responsible for the roads. El Camino Real is a state road, and thus under the responsibility of CalTrans. In a review of their website, there is a webpage that deals with how to file a claim with CalTrans [Click Here].
Key points from the website:
- You will need to complete their claim form
- Older potholes are more likely to lead to reimbursement of damages
- You will want to file this claim within six months of the event
In summary, the good news is that a pothole collision claim is covered, if you have collision coverage. The bad news is that it’s typically considered to be the fault of the driver, which is likely to affect future premium rates. The alternative that may be worth pursuing is to claim with the city or state authority responsible for the road maintenance.