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Insurance Helpline | Negotiating your own compensation for pothole damage

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2016 | 9:00 AM
In this December 1, 2015 file photo, an old car seat with branch attached is anchored in this water-logged pothole as a warning to drivers. Damage to vehicles caused by potholes may require motorists to first identify which agency is responsible for the particular bit of road where the damage occurred.
In this September 6, 2016 photo, a man rides his bike along a pothole-filled road. Damage to vehicles caused by potholes may require motorists to first identify which agency is responsible for the particular bit of road where the damage occurred.
In this September 6, 2016 photo, a man stands in a pothole to demonstrate its dimensions.Damage to vehicles caused by potholes may require motorists to first identify which agency is responsible for the particular bit of road where the damage occurred.
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QUESTION: My vehicle suffered serious damage three months ago. The incident occurred when it fell into a huge hole filled with water at night. The road was poorly lit. There were no signs to warn pedestrians or motorists. I stopped buying comprehensive insurance five years ago. As a result, my insurers will give me no help to obtain recovery from the entity that dug up the road. How do I go about getting compensation?

B.S., Kingston 6

INSURANCE HELPLINE: The utility service providers in my neck of the woods have been very active of late. Agents and/or employees of the electricity suppliers have been fixing the street lights on my road.

The asphalt on the main roads near my house have been cut. It looks like fibre-optic cables are to be laid below the road surface. Not to be left out is the water and sewerage utility.

Employees and/or agents were, as of last Wednesday, fixing a major problem to the underground infrastructure on Shortwood Road near to the Alysham entrance. When I passed the night before, a few dried tree branches, yellow police crime scene tape and piles of earth spoke to the dangers that awaited motorists and pedestrians especially at night.

 

NUMEROUS RISKS

 

There are many risks associated with the activities taking place in my neighbourhood and at thousands of locations islandwide. What happens when things go wrong? Some risks are transferred to insurance companies. Others are not.

American consumer icon, Ralph Nader, in a recent interview, explained how insurance companies and the United States legal system, working from different starting points, created new safety standards in the auto industry.

Those efforts, he said, have saved thousands of lives. Is it beyond the capacity of insurance companies in Jamaica and others in the society to take measures to improve our safety infrastructure and prevent accidents like yours from happening?

In a former life, I had responsibility, at different times, for the insurances of the local electricity, telephone and water utilities. Knowledge about terms of their licences, in the case of the first two, and the enabling legislation in the third, their operations, activities in the public space and the associated risks played an important part in ensuring that there were no nasty surprises. These events, for example, could happen when an accident like yours occurred or if a child died after making contact with a live electrical wire. These things typically are covered by comprehensive general liability (CGL) or third party liability (TPL) insurances.

Businessdictionary.com defines TPL as insurance "that covers claims arising from an insured's liability due to damage or injury caused by negligence or acts of omission which happen) during the performance" of its functions "or in the carrying out of its business." For example, if one service providers is "authorised (by law) to open or break up any road, street or lane for the purpose of laying down, extending or inspecting, altering, renewing or repairing" any works or system then the liability connected with those operations, would, normally be insured by the entity's CGL or TPL insurance contract.

Getting compensation should closely follow the four-step process as making a claim against a third party whose negligence caused a motor vehicle accident:

1) The negligent party will have to be identified;

2) The negligent act must be proven;

3) A detailed report is filed with that party and/or its insurance carriers; and

4) Independent proof of the loss is submitted to the negligent party and/or its insurers.

I trust that this response provides you with insights into what you should do to get compensation.

- Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For free information or counsel, write to: aegis@flowja.com