Claiming for road accidents caused by poor road conditions

road conditions
25 Oct 2023

South Africa’s road infrastructure is crumbling. In some areas, conditions are so dire insurance companies are pitching in to repair highways and byways in an effort to stem the flow of road accident claims.

According to one insurer, pothole-related accident claims have soared by 15% year-on-year. Of these claims, in excess of 75% of vehicles were rendered inoperable.

Skits, viral videos and memes of gigantic potholes on provincial and municipal roads are all over social media. Memes might raise plenty of laughs, but they point to the extent of the problem.

Crucially, it’s not only vehicles that are taking a pounding. Injuries and fatalities caused by poor road conditions are on the rise.

How bad are South African roads?

Inadequate maintenance is exacting a toll on road users. So, too, is the advanced age of the existing infrastructure.

As reported in Daily Maverick, there are around 25 million potholes on South African roads. Due to heavy rains and recent flooding, that number is sure to escalate.

In the National Land Transport Strategic Framework, the Department of Transport admitted that “… close to 80% of the national road network has exceeded its 20-year structure design lifespan”.

Based on Treasury estimates, more than R255 billion will be required over the next three years to construct, upgrade and maintain the country’s road transport infrastructure.

In the meantime, the economic cost and loss of life arising from accidents on poorly maintained roads continues to rise. In 2022, the 10,000-plus fatal car accidents in South Africa cost the economy R186 billion, or 3.3% of GDP.

Who is liable for road accidents caused by poor road conditions?

Anyone who is injured in a road accident through no fault of their own is entitled to claim damages. When the accident is due to a cracked, crumbling, rutted or potholed road surface, one of three parties can be held liable. They are:

  • the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL), the authority responsible for maintaining the national road network;
  • the provincial or local government responsible for the repairs and maintenance of provincial roads; or
  • the local municipality or city council tasked with preserving and upgrading municipal roads.

When an agency does not maintain the roads to a safe standard or fails to warn motorists of a potential road hazard, it is negligent in its duty and therefore liable for damages.

What is required for a claim to succeed?

For a claim of this type to succeed, the injured party must prove that:

  • he or she was injured due to a defect in the road that the entity in question has a responsibility for maintaining and repairing
  • the agency was aware of the existence of the defect but failed to repair it timeously or warn motorists accordingly.

Witness statements, medical and police reports, photographic evidence of the car and the existing road conditions, and invoices relating to medical expenses and vehicle repairs are required to support the claim.

Why contact an attorney?    

Determining which entity may be liable for damages, and proving the basic elements required for a claim to succeed, can be tricky. Factors like wrongful conduct, fault, causation and damage have to be established in order for a claim to be considered.

An experienced attorney has an in-depth knowledge of the legal process and how to get the compensation the client deserves.

DSC Attorneys is one of South Africa’s leading personal injury law firms specialising in road accident claims.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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