Sakeena Suliman – Cii News | 12 Safar 1436/05 December 2014

It is not untrue that South Africa does not have the infrastructure to accommodate the 22 percent increase of vehicles on its roads. Over the last five years the volume has jumped by 22%. Highway upgrades of 2010 are said to not have been adequate to meet the demand.

While we welcome the rainy season, the heavy, wet weather invites other problems to our roads such as potholes. Sometimes potholes occur due to poor maintenance from national or municipal government municipalities and deterioration of the roads. Being the holiday season drivers might not be aware of the condition of the roads they aren’t familiar with, especially travelling to various holiday destinations by motor vehicle.

But if your car is damaged or you meet up in an accident as a result of a pothole, drivers are able to claim from government. Cii Radio spoke with Howard Dembovsky from The Justice Project South Africa.

“Every single roads authority has a process that allows you to claim damages that are sustained to your motor vehicle from them. The difficulty comes in where a person is travelling along that road and they don’t know which roads authority they need to level a claim against and in that kind of circumstance I would encourage people to find out who the roads authority is for that road. It might be the local roads authority like the Joburg Roads Agency or Gauteng Provincial Roads Agency, the Gauteng Department of Transport or Kwazulu Natal Department of Transport if you’re going on holiday to KZN,” explained Dembovsky.

One needs to be certain that their claim is levelled against the correct party otherwise they will be on an even longer road to actually getting their claim satisfied. If one is insured the advantage would be that the insurance company will settle the claim and then make an effort to claim back its losses from that particular roads agency.

“The one thing I’m going to need to highlight is that if you see a puddle of water on the road, then for goodness sake do what you can to avoid it because you do not know what’s hidden beneath. It could be a pothole but it could also be a sink hole as has been seen in Kwazulu Natal and in Cape Town where in the past an entire vehicle had fallen into a sink hole. You need to be very careful to avoid puddles of water,” he said.

If damage is incurred to one’s vehicle they would first need to establish if it is a National of Municipal Road. National Roads are the responsibility of the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) whereas municipal roads fall under the authority of the various municipal districts of the Department of Public Works where those roads are located.

Claims for damages caused by pothole or road works are directed to SANRAL who then takes it to the specific contractor on that stretch of road. From then on the claim is processed in the same way as any other car insurance claim where it must be proven that the damage was in fact caused by the road.

“The purpose of claiming from the roads agency for damages sustained to your vehicle is to put your vehicle back in the state that it was prior to the pothole or whatever road damage caused damage to your motor vehicle so let’s get that very clear. However, let’s not be naive and just believe that if you have a dented rim and blame it on a pothole that it will be covered. The roads authority is not stupid. They will require a number of things from you, not least of which is a photograph of the alleged pothole in question. They would require the exact location of that particular pothole.”

Damages to motor vehicles occurring on Municipal Roads are claimed from that specific municipal authority who will require the following information: ID document, Driver’s License, the registration details of you vehicle, three written quotes for repair and a declaration signed by the claimant, in addition to the proof through photographs.

Drivers must bear in mind that while the process is lengthy it isn’t a battle. “I would like to discourage the thought that it’s a fight… All of the roads agencies have these policies in place to compensate people for damages incurred to their motor vehicle. They’re certainly not going to settle a person R100 000 to replace a rim… Yes, there may be instances where the crash results in severe injury of people in that motor vehicle but then we start talking about the Road Accident Fund (RAF) taking up the flack with respect to the injuries.”