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Notice to Motorists Regarding Pothole Damage Claims

Please be advised of and consider the following:

The Law in British Columbia

The law in British Columbia does not make a municipality legally responsible to ensure that its roads are always free of defects or hazards, such as potholes. The Local Government Act, Section 744, provides that a municipality does not have legal liability for damages that arise from a breakdown in a road. The municipality must be found to have been negligent in the particular circumstances. Motorists are advised that written notice of intent to claim must be provided to a municipality within two (2) months of the events that give rise to the claim, as per the Local Government Act, Section 736.

What Causes Potholes?

Potholes are weather related and can occur at any time of the year. They are normally formed following extreme weather, with the freezing and thawing of sub-surface water from rain or snow runoff that has infiltrated into the ground through surface cracks. The weakening of the pavement structure combined with heavy traffic loads eventually leads to the formation of potholes.

How Does the City Respond to Potholes?

The City has a significant network of streets and the City Engineering Department has a fixed number of work crews, equipment, and other resources with which it can respond to and repair road defects. When a pothole is reported to the City, the repair work is scheduled and carried out accordingly. In normal circumstances the City can respond to pothole repairs in a timely manner. During extreme and unfavourable weather conditions when pothole problems are numerous and proper repair work cannot be carried out, only temporary repairs will be made until conditions allow.

Temporary and Permanent Repairs

Ideally, every pothole would be permanently repaired at the first response. However, a permanent repair requires more time and the right weather. Temporary repairs, when necessary, may involve the use of cold or hot mixed asphalt. Temporary repairs are replaced with a permanent repair with better compaction, edge sealing, and material bonding when weather conditions allow.

Media Reports and Municipal Response to Claims

The expectations of some motorists appear to have been raised by reports in the local media that municipalities may have set aside funds for payment of pothole claims. These reports are not an accurate depiction of the legal or practical reality. To the best of our knowledge no municipality in this Province has set aside any funds specifically for pothole damages. Municipalities – including the City of Burnaby – typically only pay compensation for damages in circumstances where legal liability is either evident or established.