Nova Scotia

Highway hole causes $1K in damage — and the province won't pay

A Dartmouth, N.S., couple who smashed into a dangerous pothole say the Nova Scotia government should take more responsibility for its highways.

Government says it didn't know about Bedford Bypass pothole, so it won't pay to repair couple's car

Jim and Pat Briggs say the province should cover damages caused by holes on its highways. (CBC)

A Dartmouth, N.S., couple who smashed into a dangerous pothole say the Nova Scotia government should take more responsibility for its highways.

Jim and Pat Briggs were travelling at highway speed along the Bedford Bypass on Dec. 3.

"It was after supper so of course it was dark," Pat Briggs said in an interview this week. "All of a sudden we hit a hole — bang!"

Their Ford Fusion slammed into the pothole as they crossed the bridge over Rocky Lake Road.

"It kind of gave me a jolt. It took me a while to get myself straightened away," said Jim Briggs, who was driving.

He got the car under control and they drove on. They saw several other motorists pulled over to fix their tires. "There was certainly cars there that hit that same hole," Pat said.

CBC found a pothole at the same spot where the Briggs hit one on Dec. 3. (CBC)

The Briggs found two rims were bent beyond use, two tires were ruined and the alignment was out of whack. The repairs totalled $1,178.20 — a big blow to their budget. With a $1,000 insurance deductible, they turned to the province.

Pat Briggs reported the hole that evening. They didn't get an answer until Jan. 27. A claims officer with the Department of Internal Services wrote that the province must know about a pothole and fail to repair it within a "designated service standard" to be liable.

"Based on our investigation of all information available to date, we have found that there was no knowledge of this matter prior to your date of loss," the official said.

"They were sorry for the inconvenience, but have a nice day," Pat Briggs said.

Province gets up to 120 days to fix potholes

No one from the province would agree to be interviewed to explain the policy. Marla MacInnis, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, emailed CBC News the service standards for pothole repair.

Depending on the size of the hole and the type of road, the province gives itself from seven to 120 days to fix it "within the construction season." MacInnis said that season runs April 1 to Nov. 30. 

"Once we are made aware of a pothole, the service-standards clock begins. If the service-standards time elapses, the pothole is not repaired and a vehicle is damaged, there could be a claim pay out," she wrote. 

CBC drove the same stretch of road this week and found a string of 20 big potholes. The vehicle audibly struck a pothole at the location the Briggs reported in December.

There were 20 big potholes on this stretch of the Bedford Bypass. (CBC)

The Briggs say they'd be accountable for a vehicle damaged by a hole on their property and they think the government should be likewise responsible.

"The two that were damaged, and the two bent rims and the full realignment, balancing and that sort of thing, I felt was their responsibility," Pat Briggs said. "It should be looked after by the province. It's their highway, right?"

The Briggs say the law should change. Until then, they urge other drivers to report potholes so the government will fix them, or perhaps pay for the next victim they claim.

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