Filling the gap – Potholes, sinkholes and your insurance

17 May 2018Old Mutual Insure
Hannes Smith, Head of Collaboration at Old Mutual Insure.

Hannes Smith, Head of Collaboration at Old Mutual Insure.

The chances of you hitting a pothole or a sinkhole could soon dramatically increase. Recently, the Gauteng Provincial Government had warned that the current rainfall in the region could bring with it an increase in the amount of potholes and sinkholes. For many South Africans, the sudden appearance of potholes and sinkholes after the recent rainfalls represents potential danger to their vehicles and their properties. While many insurance companies have products that do cover damage caused by potholes and sinkholes, prevention is definitely better than cure.

What causes potholes and sinkholes? 

According to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the majority of potholes form in the rainy period and are generally caused by: 

  • The cracking of the asphalt as a result of fatigue or ageing that allows water into the support, and
  • The penetration of water to a less permeable interface within the asphalt layer, resulting in the stripping of the asphalt. 

Interestingly, the CSIR clarifies that potholes are also common during the dry season, mainly due to temporary wet conditions resulting from localised irrigation, ponding and/or seepage of water. 

Potholes aren’t the only problem facing South Africans. Sinkholes could have disastrous effects on your property. Sinkholes occur when dolomite or limestone rock is dissolved by water, causing the ground above it to collapse - often leaving large holes in the ground. 

“The likelihood of an increase in both potholes and sinkholes could have serious repercussions for many South Africans. Not only could they harm your vehicle, but something like a sinkhole could also seriously damage your property,” explains Hannes Smith, Head of Collaboration a Old Mutual Insure. 

To help South Africans who may unfortunately fall victim to potholes and sinkholes, Old Mutual Insure provides the following tips and hints. 

Avoiding sinkholes on your property: 

  • Make sure to fix any leaking pipes on your property as soon as possible.
  • Ensure that you keep all drainage holes clear of debris to allow water to properly drain from your property. 

If a sinkhole forms on your property: 

  • Restrict access to the hole
  • NEVER go down into a sinkhole or try to fill the hole yourself.
  • Contact local police or emergency responders immediately
  • Take photographs for documentation, but do not get too close to the edges of the sinkhole. 

If your car is damaged by a pothole: 

  • If you hit the pothole late at night, don’t stop:
    • Take note of where the pothole is situated.
    • Return the following day to take photos of the pothole.
  • Contact your insurance broker immediately
  • If possible, take photos of the damage to your car and send them through as part of your claim. 

“At the end of the day, most insurers make provision for damages incurred as a result of both sinkholes and potholes. Make sure to read through your policy carefully and be sure to provide your broker or insurance provider with as much information as possible,” concludes Smith .

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