Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Beware pothole damage claims

Brandon taxi driver has to pay repair bill

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BRANDON -- Drivers who claim pothole damage could be considered at fault, costing five demerit points, according to Manitoba Public Insurance.

Brandon cab driver Raymond Daigneault learned that lesson the hard way and is in the hole $1,700 after a series of potholes tore apart the bottom of his 4-Way taxi.

The stabilizer bar, the front tie rod and a wheel hub on his 2007 Chevrolet Uplander needed repair after Daigneault hit a series of potholes on McTavish Avenue and one near the intersection of Ninth Street and Van Horne Avenue in April.

"The stabilizer bar was ripped right out," he said, "and the front tie rod was just hanging on, maybe half a thread holding it."

'Some potholes go right through across the street.Some of them aren't even potholes, they're sinkholes'

-- Brandon cabbie Raymond Daigneault

According to MPI, drivers are required to respond to road conditions, and if a driver is aware they are on a bad road, they're expected to "avoid causing damages to the vehicle," MPI spokesman Brian Smiley said.

"If they don't take those preventative steps, then the adjuster can certainly find the driver to be at fault," he said. "Under the driver-safety rating, an at-fault collision is assessed five demerits."

Daigneault argues Brandon's ongoing problem makes it hard to simply avoid potholes or bad roads.

"What am I supposed to do, not drive in Brandon? Some potholes go right through across the street. Some of them aren't even potholes, they're sinkholes," he said.

The City of Brandon says motorists should never swerve to avoid a pothole and advises drivers to slow down when approaching one.

MPI emphasizes that any insurance claim can be subject to appeal, and every claim is assessed individually. If the driver isn't familiar with the area, or if rainwater or snow make it hard to see potholes, for example, MPI may not consider it an at-fault collision.

Smiley said pothole-damage claims are unique, because even if a driver such as a cabbie knows city roads, a pothole can appear overnight.

"It's difficult. A pothole isn't here today and it's here tomorrow... but we encourage our customers to appeal if they are not happy with the decision," Smiley said.

In any given year, there are around 500 pothole-related claims to MPI, according to Smiley, who said the "vast majority" don't end up finding the driver at fault.

"All the information is looked at carefully, not only from the driver's perspective, but also in some cases adjusters have gone out and looked at conditions of roads and things like that."

Daigneault, however, ended up paying his repair bill out of pocket, because if he's not on the road, he's not making money. He estimates he lost more than $1,000 in income while off the road.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 13, 2013 A10

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