Everyone’s Talking about – Potholes

With the recent rains not only washing us all away, but wreaking havoc with the roads and infrastructure, the resounding comment we keep on hearing is “have you seen all the potholes!” or “the potholes have gotten so much worse” or “my car has been damaged due to a pothole”…

The topic of the state of our roads is by far not an old one, with people running to court for retribution for decades; some being successful, others not.

So, this begs the question: what is the situation in our area?

The main aspect to be considered when damage has occurred due to poor road conditions is where the damage occurred.  Liability for these damages can be claimed from two different parties namely: the local authority (municipality) or SANRAL.

NATIONAL ROADS (the “N” roads such as the N1, N2, N3 etc.), are the responsibility of the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), who contract with road works or maintenance companies to maintain these roads.  These companies have to produce proof of insurance cover in the event damages claims from road users arise.

This means that damaged caused by poor road conditions on the national roads will be forwarded to SANRAL, and thereafter on to the contractor for that specific stretch of road.

In order to submit a claim to SANRAL for damage caused, it goes without saying that the damage has to be evident and substantiated for SANRAL to evaluate the claim and make payment in respect thereof.  In addition, there cannot be duplicate claims – the same claim to SANRAL and to your insurer.  Thus if you decide to claim from your insurer, any claim against SANRAL will fail.  However, should you not claim from your insurer, or if you don’t have insurance cover, you may lodge your claim with SANRAL.    

As a result, the following information must be submitted when lodging a claim: –

  1. Details of the owner of the vehicle;
  2. Details of the driver of the vehicle, including drivers licence;
  3. Details of the vehicle which sustained the damage;
  4. Full details of the incident wherein the damage occurred;
  5. Details of damage together with photographic evidence and 3 repair quotations;
  6. Details of your insurer, if insured, to confirm the presence of only one claim; and
  7. Declaration by claimant that the information furnished is true and correct and that no claim has been submitted to any other insurer.

Claims against SANRAL can be sent to Ms. N. Gouws (Tel: 041 – 398 3200 ; Fax: 041 – 398 3211)

So, that clarifies the position of national roads, but what about LOCAL ROADS in and around the City and its suburbs?  

Having explored the Buffalo City Metro website, in search of a similar claim procedure to that of SANRAL, we have found a post published in October 2011 with regard to claims for damages to tyres and rims caused by potholes.

In the said post, the Metro advises to address and submit claims to the City Manager, including in your claim the following information:

  1. Full description of how the incident occurred;
  2. The exact location of the pothole;
  3. The amount being claimed and details thereof, including 2 quotations and copy of the repair invoice; and
  4. Contact details of claimant.

While it is evident that the Metro doesn’t require as much information as SANRAL, it is probably best to submit as much information as possible, and we therefore suggest submitting the same information requested under claims against SANRAL.

In addition to that stated above, the Metro’s spokesperson, as he was then, indicated that “The length of time is takes for the claim to be settled depends on how long it takes for the City’s roads department to submit its report on the incident”.  It is accordingly obvious that claims may take months to settle.

Furthermore, in order to give the public an insight into the claim process, the Metro set out the claims process as follows: –

  1. On receipt of the letter from the claimant, a copy is sent to the Metro’s insurers to open a claim file, and a copy is sent to the roads department to do a report on the incident;
  2. The roads department forwards the report to the insurance section within the Metro, which in turn forwards it to the Metro’s insurers;
  3. The insurers assess the claim from the claimant together with the department’s report;
  4. The insurers communicate directly with the claimant in writing via mail or email as to the outcome of their claim;
  5. The claimant is advised by the Metro’s insurers of the outcome of their claim within three weeks of all documentation being received by insurers;
  6. The spokesperson further indicated that each claim was assessed by the metro’s insurers and the decision to settle or repudiate the claim was made by the insurers.

Please remember though, that this claim procedure is by no means a definite answer to your problems, as the Metro’s insurers may simply reject any claim.

So, what if your claim gets rejected?  A letter of repudiation should be sent to you setting out the reasons for the Metro rejecting your claim.  If you believe that their repudiation of the claim is unfounded and wish to proceed with a claim, contact us to assist you with a claim out of the relevant court, according to the jurisdictional amount of your claim.

Lastly, should you want to notify the Metro of poor roads in your area, contact numbers that have been assigned for this purpose are the following:

East London:   043 – 705 9220 / 9223

Mdantsane:   043 – 705 9850

King Williams Town:   043 – 654 0305

Please note that the numbers indicated in this article relate only to the Eastern Cape, and not other provinces, however the procedure would be roughly the same in terms of claiming from other municipalities.

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