Motorists should collect enough evidence at scene

2015-07-28 09:49
The pothole on the N3 that allegedly damaged a motorist’s vehicle.

The pothole on the N3 that allegedly damaged a motorist’s vehicle. (Supplied)

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A HOWICK motorist is determined to make sure that the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) and its contractors are held responsible for damage to his vehicle after he allegedly hit a pothole when driving on the N3 freeway recently.

Tony Psaila said he was driving on the N3 in March when Sanral’s contractor Roadspan Surfaces was busy with maintenance and repairs on the stretch of freeway between Cedara and Pietermaritzburg.

“I was heading south on the N3 and hit a massive pothole just past the Hilton turnoff,” Psaila said.

“My front tyre blew out and my mag wheel was cracked in three places. My front end steering was also damaged,” he said.

“I put my spare wheel on and drove to Hilton police station to do a report and told them about the danger of the hole. They sent two officers there straight away and closed off that lane,” he said.

Psaila said he lodged a R5 490 claim for damages with Sanral, which in turn referred the claim to its contractor responsible for that section of the road, Roadspan Surfaces, which had repudiated the claim.

However, Psaila said he had sought a legal opinion and he was advised to pursue the matter in court. He said it seemed as if Sanral and its contractors did not want to accept responsibility for his complaint and had hoped he would just give up and disappear.

“I will not on principle because there must be a lot more people out there with a similar story,” Psaila said.

In its repudiation letter, Roadspan Surfaces said that after consulting its site engineer the company could not accept responsibility because it did not know exactly when the incident had occurred, whether a third party was involved or whether the alleged damages could be linked to the company or its work on the road.

“We are of the opinion that no negligence of whatsoever nature can be attributed to Roadspan Surfaces … There are too many factors which play a role,” the letter read.

The company added that while it denied any damage could have occurred it had “taken every precaution to limit and/or to avoid any damage” and that any further action would be “strongly defended”.

However, Psaila said he had given the company a detailed report about when and where the incident had occurred, just 50 metres from where the traffic had been stopped to merge into two lanes, complete with the police accident report number.

When I approached Sanral for an explanation, Sanral Eastern Region manager Logashri Sewnarain said last week that the agency was following up to find out why it had been repudiated and that he would ask the contractor to reassess the claim.

“While Sanral does have insurance against claims for damages, Sanral is also indemnified against any claims by the contractors we appoint to construct or maintain the national roads,” Sewnarain said.

He added that contractors also had their own insurance.

“Sanral does not stipulate to its own insurers, or the contractor’s insurers, which claims to pay or not. It is up to the insurers to proceed with their own investigations into claims and return with a decision, even with the knowledge that a dismissal of a claim could possibly lead to litigation,” he said.

Sewnarain advised motorists who want to lodge claims for damage allegedly incurred due to potholes on freeways to contact Sanral’s regional office for information, including details of the contractor responsible. He said motorists could also lodge claims directly with contractors whose details appeared on boards at the start of each section of a road under maintenance.

Attorney Salina Govindsamy of Gavin Gow Attorneys advised motorists to ensure that they collect as much evidence as possible at the scene of the incident before lodging a claim, including the exact location of the pothole, the date and time of the incident, photographs of the pothole and of the damage to the vehicle. She added that it was also important to include a declaration stating that the motorist had not already lodged a separate claim with an insurer as one can’t be unduly enriched.

“If the damage occurred on national roads such as the N1, N2 or N3 the motorist must lodge a claim with Sanral. If the damage occurred on other roads then the complaint should be lodged with the local authority/municipality,” Govindsamy said.

She advised motorists to sue in the relevant court for damages in cases where a claim has been repudiated.
Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  accident

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