Question: My son hit a pothole while driving across the country in April. He didn’t realize the extent of damage until recently when the truck starting having other issues. The Toyota dealer is saying the entire frame needs to be replaced at a cost of $12,000. Because this was not reported at the time of the incident, will he have trouble getting the insurance money?
Answer: If the damage to your son’s vehicle is plainly due to a peril covered by his collision insurance coverage, then he should be able to make an insurance claim for it – even this many months afterward.
Car insurance companies do prefer that their insureds file a claim as close to the date of the incident that damaged the vehicle. However, as long as your son’s car insurance policy doesn’t say that he only has a specified amount of time, which has already passed, he should be OK to put the claim in and get it paid – if the insurance company finds the damage to his Toyota truck is covered under his policy.
Most auto policies give policyholders up to a year to make a physical damage claim. Thus, if your son is still within the time frame to make a claim, then he will need to show that the damage to his vehicle is due to a situation covered by his collision or comprehensive coverage (the two types of physical damage coverage) in order to make the claim.
Collision covers the car when it hits, or is hit by, another vehicle or object. This normally does include damage from hitting a pothole, curb or road debris during his cross-country trip. (See “You hit what? The Crash-o-matic” for more information on what insurance coverage is used for different types of claims)
If your son can prove that the frame damage isn’t a manufacturer issue or due to some other incident not covered by his policy, such as off-roading typically not covered under a personal auto policy, then his collision coverage should cover it (minus his deductible amount).
To help back up his position for the claim, your son should ask his mechanic to provide a statement to the insurance company saying that the probable cause was the pothole (or if there is another incident your son now remembers that may have been the cause).
Your son needs to show that his claim isn’t for mechanical issues that wouldn’t be covered under his car insurance policy.
Reporting an accident or damage to your car as soon as you discover it is important to most car insurance companies, so make sure your son is clear in explaining why there was a delay to the insurance adjuster.
If your son’s truck claim is accepted, but the damages are too extensive to repair or cost nearly as much as the value of the truck, then it will likely be found to be a total loss. In that case, instead of the truck being fixed his insurance company would pay him out actual cash value for it (again, minus his deductible amount).
If your son runs into issues with the claim, he can always turn to the state’s insurance regulator’s office for consumer help and advice.