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Who’s Liable for Road Accidents Caused by Potholes in South Africa?

Who’s Liable for Road Accidents Caused by Potholes in South Africa?
Aug 23, 2023 gnuworld

The South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), or the responsible municipality, may be held liable for road accidents caused by potholes in South Africa.

It’s estimated that South Africa is now home to upwards of 25 million potholes or, as MyBroadband reported, “more potholes than households”.

The deteriorating condition of roads across the country is a growing cause of road accidents. As well as damaging vehicles, these accidents can result in serious injuries and deaths.

The ever-worsening condition of South African roads

Anyone who drives on South African roads is well aware of their poor condition. Unfortunately, the situation is worsening.

In 2017, there were an estimated 15 million potholes. According to SANRAL, there are now more than 25 million. The cause is simple – inadequate road maintenance.

Statistics on South Africa’s road-maintenance backlog explain the state of our roads. Speaking at a road construction indaba in 2022, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said that roughly 40% of provincial roads and 80% of South Africa’s national roads are at the end of their design life.

It’s estimated that South Africa now needs upwards of R200 billion to fund road maintenance, yet Government spending on roads is actually decreasing, according to data published by Statistics South Africa in October 2020.

Increase in pothole-related accident claims

Inevitably, as the number of potholes on South African roads has risen, so has the number of pothole-related accident claims.

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has said the Government has paid out money to hundreds of motorists due to damage caused by potholes on the country’s roads, many cases were valued at more than R100,000.

At the end of 2022, Dialdirect Insurance reported a 15% increase in pothole-related accident claims. Anneli Retief, the former head of Dialdirect Insurance, told TimesLIVE, “Dodging potholes has fast become a professional sport but doing so can, and sometimes does, result in car accidents.”

How potholes can cause accidents

Anyone who has driven through a pothole knows how easily it can cause an accident that might result in serious injuries. In the case of large potholes, impact with the road alone may be enough to cause serious injury.

Serious accidents caused by potholes can happen when:

  • a vehicle swerves into on-coming traffic
  • a vehicle swerves and hits a cyclist, pedestrian or obstacle
  • a tyre blows out
  • a driver slams on the brakes quickly after spotting a pothole
  • a vehicle malfunctions after hitting a pothole.

Driver safety tips for poorly maintained roads

One of the best ways to stay safe on South Africa’s potholed roads is to always be aware of potential danger and to drive cautiously. Driver safety tips include:

  • be aware of your surroundings and look out for hazard warning signs
  • be extra vigilant on roads used by heavy vehicles
  • drive with caution on wet roads, during rain and when it’s dark
  • if you can’t avoid a pothole, hold the steering wheel tight, apply the brakes before you hit the pothole and then ease off.

Claiming for road accidents caused by potholes

When you’re injured in a road accident or your car is damaged, you may be able to claim damages from the authority responsible for the maintenance of the road.

If the accident occurs on a national road, a claim may be made against the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL). For damages sustained in an accident on a municipal road, the relevant local municipality or department of public works may be liable.

If you’re physically injured in a road accident caused by a pothole that you weren’t solely responsible for, you may be able to make a claim for compensation from the Road Accident Fund.

Factors affecting claim success

The success of a claim for damages sustained in an accident caused by potholes depends on a number of factors.

Your legal team will need to supply proof of negligence. This could be a photograph of the pothole that caused the accident or evidence that the pothole was previously reported to authorities and not repaired. When this is the case, the state authority is more likely to be judged negligent and therefore liable.

For a claim to be successful, you’ll also need to supply further supporting evidence, such as medical reports and bills, contact details of any witnesses, and a police report.

Help with claims for road accidents caused by potholes

If you or your child suffered an injury during a road accident caused by potholes, it’s important to consult a suitably experienced attorney.

At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims. We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.

We work on a no-win, no-fee basis. Contact us for the very best legal support and representation.

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