January 13th, 2020

Unfair, unaccountable system limits compensation for pothole damage

Halifax -- New information, released Friday by the NDP caucus, showed shockingly low numbers of successful claims for damage caused by hazards on provincial roads and points to a bigger problem. The province is able to avoid paying for damage caused by potholes because they are only liable if they know about the pothole.

“The Liberal government is responsible for the state of our road infrastructure, and that means they should be liable when the poor condition of roads causes serious damage to people’s cars,” said Susan Leblanc, NDP Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal spokesperson. “The current rules give the government all the power.”

Once the government is aware of a hazard, the department decides on the amount of time it has to fix the problem before they would be liable for the cost. The timeline is based on the surface maintenance response timetable published in TIR’s Highway Maintenance Standards. The department can give themselves anywhere from 7 to 14 days based on the size of the pothole but can also extend the period based on weather or the availability of repair crews.

Karen Cole had to replace all four tires on her car after hitting a pothole last spring. She says the system needs to be more fair and accountable to drivers.

“The government should take better care of the roads, and certainly take better care of people when their cars are damaged because the road is in poor repair,” said Cole. “There’s no way to prove that the department knew about the pothole I hit. What good is a policy that gives them a certain amount of time to fix it if you can’t track when the pothole was first reported.”

In the last five years the number of successful complaints has dropped each year. In 2014/2015 almost 8 per cent of claims were successful. Only 5 per cent of claims were approved last year.