Los Angeles Roads – Ground Zero for Potholes

potholes and your auto insurance

Potholes. We shudder (literally) to even think about them. Unfortunately, along with epic traffic jams, potholes are an all–too common occurrence for Los Angeles drivers.
According to a report (Oct. 4, 2013) by TRIP, a nonprofit national transportation research group, Los Angeles area roads were singled out as the nation’s most deteriorated roads among cities (with more than 500,000 residents), along with the highest annual cost to drivers — pegged at $800 annually.

If you hit a pothole, be sure to inspect your vehicle for possible damage.

Pothole damage can affect your vehicle in many ways:
•    Tire puncture damage or wear
•    Wheel rim damage
•    Premature wear on shocks and struts
•    Suspension damage, including broken components
•    Steering system misalignment
•    Exhaust system damage

Some auto manufacturers warn that you can actually trigger your vehicle’s airbags if you strike a large pothole with sufficient force.

Filing a claim with the city
If your car has been damaged by a pothole, you can file a claim with the City of Los Angeles. A “Claim for Damages Form” is available online at the Office of the City Clerk.

Here are general guidelines to help when you file your claim:

1. Identify the exact location.
2. Take a picture of the pothole and physical damage to your car.
3. List names and address of witnesses, doctors and hospitals.
4. Request street maintenance records for the past year from the Street Services
Bureau for the block where the pothole is located (in case your claim is initially
denied).
5. Complete repairs to your vehicle; save all receipts.

File a claim with your insurance carrier
Damages to such items as tires or steering alignment may be covered by car insurance policies under your collision coverage if the damage is greater than your collision deductible amount. However, filing a claim with your insurance company may not be worth it. Better to file a claim with the city, county or state agency responsible for the problem section of road.

In Los Angeles, you can report a pothole or bad section of road. Call toll free at 1-800-996-CITY or visit the Online Services Request Form on the Bureau of Street Services site.

Los Angeles now has a free app to report non-emergency issues to local government, such as potholes, graffiti, missed trash collections, abandoned vehicles, downed trees, broken traffic lights, broken sidewalks, etc. There’s one for the Android and one for the iPhone.

Tips to minimize damage from potholes
•    Maintain correct tire pressure to provide the proper cushion between the pothole and the rim of the tire. Overinflated tires cause the tire to ride very stiff and can lead to suspension damage from hitting a pothole.
•    Consult your owner’s manual or check the placard on the driver’s door jam, for the manufacturer’s recommended tire inflation pressure (don’t use the maximum inflation pressure rating on the side of the tire).
•    Be alert for potholes by leaving a “safety zone” of space between your vehicle and the one in front of you.
•    If you can’t avoid a pothole, slow down, if possible, and don’t brake directly over a pothole (weight transfer to the front puts extra stress on the front suspension and tires).

The number and size of potholes are increasing, so be aware. Now’s a good time to check your auto insurance policy – you may want to change the amount of your deductible.