With so many potholes this winter, a lot more people are asking for compensation for damage to their vehicles, writes Jack Lakey.

If the city of Toronto fails to meet its minimum maintenance standards for patching potholes, there’s a reasonably good chance it’ll pay a claim made for vehicle damage caused by hitting a pothole. (JACK LAKEY)

If your vehicle was damaged from driving over a pothole, there’s a pretty good chance that the city of Toronto will pay a compensation claim.

And with about 900 claims made for pothole damage to vehicles in January of this year alone — more than the 872 claims made in all of 2017 — it looks like the city will have to pay off a lot of drivers.

The Toronto Star reported last week on how to make a claim for damage caused by hitting a pothole, noting that a key factor is whether the city met its minimum maintenance standards for filling them.

On arterial roads such as Eglinton Ave., the city’s records must show that it did patching in the immediate area of the pothole identified in a damage claim, within four days prior to the date the damage occurred.

On a small residential street, the minimum standard is much less stringent. If the city can show it patched potholes within the previous 30 days, it can deny a claim.

But the good news is in the numbers. The city paid 47 per cent of all claims for pothole damage last year, for an average of $516 per claim. That means it’s almost 50-50 that a well-documented claim will be paid.

That may seem like too many denials for some, but not for those who remember what it was like in the bad old days, when almost every claim for vehicle damage compensation was denied.

In 2011, the city’s ombudsman at the time, Fiona Crean, issued a scathing report that said more than 90 per cent of small claims for compensation for pothole damage, flooding from sewer backups and fallen tree limb damage were dismissed by its insurance adjuster.

In most cases, the claim was rejected without even a cursory investigation, while files were routinely closed after 60 days without notifying the person who made the claim.

An overwhelming 95 per cent of compensation claims for vehicle damage by potholes were rejected over a five-year period, based on the city’s insistence that it met minimum road maintenance standards.

Crean’s report was a serious embarrassment to the city, prompting changes in the handling process that has significantly bumped up payment numbers in recent years.

So there’s a lot more reason to file a claim if your vehicle has sustained pothole damage. But remember to provide as much information as possible and document everything, including taking photos of the pothole and the vehicle damage, if it is visible.

Good luck, and keep a sharp eye on the road.

Source: The Toronto Star