POTHOLES

What to know for pothole season

You might not have to pay to fix your flat tire

Potholes are created by fluctuation in temperature and wear and tear from snow-clearing equipment.   Anna Cormier

You’re driving down the road with sunglasses on because the sun is finally out, when out of nowhere you feel your car smash down and hear a noise you know can’t be good news.

You’ve hit a pothole. What now?

To date since Jan. 1, the Halifax Regional Municipality has filled 1,823 potholes, with 342 on its to-do list.

Wear and tear from snow-clearing equipment and temperature fluctuations contribute to the development of these holes.

During the winter months the HRM makes its own hot asphalt. When the weather is wet, the pothole is temporarily sealed with a cold patch. In the summer, HRM outsources asphalt for road maintenance and paving work.

Who is responsible?

You can make various claims to the municipality, including a pothole claim. It’s possible the HRM could be responsible for the damages occurred when hitting the pothole and would have to pay for repairs.

In order for the HRM to be liable, the municipality would have to have failed to meet its pothole service standards which, depending on the severity of the pothole, it has between seven and 30 days to fix.

The pothole has to also have been reported though, which can be done by calling 311 or emailing contact@halifax.ca.

If, when you call or email, the pothole has already been reported but wasn’t filled fast enough, you won’t have to pay for the damages.

This pothole on Hawthorne Street in Dartmouth has already been marked by HRM.   Anna Cormier

Donald Margeson went as far as small claims court to try and get the municipality to pay for the damages. In January 2008, he hit a pothole by Mic Mac Mall in Dartmouth with his BMW. It resulted in $2,259 in damages to his car.

Over a year later, in May 2009, an adjudicator dismissed the claim. “I was not satisfied on the facts before me that there was any negligence on the part of the HRM,” said W. Augustus Richardson, the adjudicator. 

The pothole Margeson had hit had not been previously reported, and the municipality had visited the site of the pothole that morning to verify that the cold patch was not functioning and hot asphalt was needed.

Margeson still thinks he should have won.

“I thought it was a waste of time and it cost me legal fees,” he said in an interview March 15.

He paid around $500 in legal fees.

Paying for the damages

It’s also possible to claim the damages on car insurance.

Matt Conrad, an agent at Allstate in Dartmouth, said claims for pothole damages fall under at-fault accidents — similar to those caused by black ice. 

“Some people don’t necessarily want to do that, only for the fact that sometimes pothole damages can be minor,” said Conrad. “That, like any other claim, people will weigh.”

Conrad said that Allstate, along with many other insurance companies, offers claim forgiveness, which can help cover damages from hitting a pothole. Claim forgiveness is when your first at-fault claim will not increase your premium for the next year. Every six years, Conrad said claims “fall off” and you will be eligible for claim forgiveness again.

One thing to remember is when it comes to insurance, you’re not covered for maintenance.

“If it’s natural wear and tear, you’re not covered; you need to differentiate between the two,” said Conrad. “If you hit something and it’s damaged, then you can think about claiming it.”

A van waiting for a flat tire repair at Yuille Auto Works.   Anna Cormier

Covering the cost yourself

The cost for fixing a car after hitting a pothole can range drastically.

Jason Malloy at Yuille Auto Works in Dartmouth, said cars go in with everything from simply needing a tire resealed, to body damage and alignment issues.

Sealing a tire at Yuille costs $23. Rims are often bent as well which Malloy said can cost as little as $55 per rim, to “hundreds and hundreds of dollars for cars like BMWs.”

“We definitely fix a lot more flat tires in the winter than we do in the summer,” said Malloy. He also noted that “many people aren’t aware of the options they have for getting their dollars back.”

Malloy said quite a few of their customers have been reimbursed by the municipality. HRM wasn’t able to confirm as of Wednesday afternoon exactly how many pothole claims it’s been responsible for.