Potholes wreak havoc on cars but compensation unlikely, CAA-Quebec warns

Pothole season is now rearing its ugly head after a roller coaster winter of freezing, thawing and freezing again, CAA-Quebec warns.

Motorists' group to again survey Quebecers in search of 10 worst roads

Pothole season is here. Drive safe, CAA-Quebec says, as it prepares to survey the province in search of Quebec's 10 worst roads. (Kim McNairn/CBC)

Pothole season is now rearing its ugly head after a roller coaster winter of freezing, thawing and freezing again.

Montreal public works crews were sent out to repair major roads in early February, but it wasn't enough to prevent the most recent appearance of pockmarked pavement as the city rolls into spring.

Now CAA-Quebec is warning drivers to remain vigilant because motorists can't easily get compensation for ruptured tires, dented wheels or suspension damage.

"Provincial and municipal governments cannot be held liable for material damage to automobile tires or suspension systems due to road conditions," states CAA-Quebec's website.

"Despite that legal restriction, it is still possible to sue the Quebec Ministry of Transport, a municipality or a city for carelessness or negligence or misconduct by the authority in question. The burden of proof, however, rests with the motorist."

But providing that proof — ranging from photos to measurements of the offending pothole — rarely results in compensation, said CAA-Quebec spokesperson Annie Gauthier.

Hubcaps litter the street near the de la Vérendrye pothole. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

And if somebody does win their case,  the amount awarded frequently does not cover all costs for repairs and inconvenience, she said.

Instead of suing the province or municipality for carelessness or negligence in court, claims can be submitted directly.

With a municipality, a claim must be sent within 15 days by registered mail to the municipal clerk.

As for the Ministry of Transport, claims can be made within three years, but waiting too long can make it hard to prove the road was in a poor state, CAA-Quebec says.

Going to court must be done within six months. For $15,000 or less, it goes to small claims. More than $15,000, the case goes to higher courts.

CAA-Quebec recommends seeking advice from your insurance company to see if it would be more advantageous to submit an insurance claim, which is possible under certain policies.

Slow down, grip wheel firmly and coast to safety

It's important to slow down, keep a safe distance and vigilantly watch for tire-eating holes in the asphalt that can wreak havoc on a vehicle.

While many may be tempted to brake abruptly or swerve at the sight of a pothole, this is not the right approach to avoid vehicular damage, said Gauthier.

When approaching a pothole, she said it is better to "release the throttle, not to touch the brakes and continue this way holding the steering wheel firmly."

Worst roads in Quebec campaign to launch in April

In  April, CAA-Quebec will launch its fifth annual campaign to identify the 10 worst roads in Quebec. The exercise draws its conclusions from citizens' online votes over a four-week period.

"Every year, we have an upsurge of participation and reports," said Gauthier, who invited people to attach a photo to their submission.

Though it's not a scientific report, the survey provides fodder for CAA-Quebec to bring to the provincial government and the municipalities concerned to encourage them to carry out the necessary repairs.

"We have seen results," Gauthier said. "No municipality or government wants to be on this list. It is always a bit awkward and in the vast majority of cases, sums are allocated to carry out temporary or permanent work to improve the situation."

With files from La Presse canadienne


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