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I Crashed into a Traffic Light… Who Pays?
Dec 23, 2018
Jacqueline du Plessis
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On Monday, July 30 2018, a minibus taxi carrying over twenty learners on the N2 highway in Cape Town, crashed into a barrier after its tyre burst. According to the Western Cape Provincial Traffic Chief, Kenny Africa, a seven-year-old learner lost his life.
Not only did this incident damage the vehicle, but it also damaged the barrier on the road. Many people are unawares as to who really is responsible for the damage caused to municipal property as a result of an accident.
The Shocking Stats
According to the Road Traffic Management Corporation(RTMC)’s annual traffic fatality report for 2016/2017, one of the main
reasons for traffic fatalities is due to negligent driving. The report also highlights that “most crashes occurred due to crashes with
trians and single vehicles”. This report also exposes that a whopping 91% of all accidents that occurred during the period of January to December 2017, was a result of human factors, such as negligence or drunk driving. But what about the damages caused to the property of others in these instances? Many of us have had the feeling of being in a crash or bump when it's someone else's fault, that's why it is so important to get the right insurance cover at a decent premium, when was the last time you checked your premium? Try this free online quick quote car insurance comparison, it only takes 5 minutes, get quotes instantly:
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So Who Is To Blame?
Regardless of the incident, it is up to the driver of the vehicle to pay for the damages done to public or municipal property, explains
the City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development Councillor, Brett Herron. Herron confirms that the city official who arrives first at the scene is the one to report the damage. “The information is then sent to the City’s Loss Recovery Unit within Law Enforcement,” explains Herron.
The City has their own damage control team who takes care of any damage done to public property, such as traffic signals and robots, however, they also work with external companies in the industry. Herron adds that “the allocation of repair work depends on the capacity of the relevant section, current workload and/or severity of the damage. We also outsource repairs where a quick turnaround time is applicable at major intersections”.
So What If The Driver Is Uninsured?
Although many people take out insurance the minute they become a vehicle owner, there are lots of people who still drive the roads uninsured. This becomes a problem if they find themselves in an accident, not only with another vehicle but also if they accidentally damage public property in the process.
Herron explains that if the driver of the vehicle is insured then their insurance company is liable for the damages, however, if they are uninsured, this becomes more complicated. “If the driver is not insured, the City would need to recover the cost of repairs from the driver through the courts,” explains Herron.
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Even though there are such strict measures put in place, Herron admits that more than 90% of the time the driver of the vehicle is unknown, causing the City to have to pay for the damages.
When Is The City Responsible For YOUR Damages?
In more recent times, the City has made the relevant upgrades to the various roads affected by potholes. Although most of these roads have been repaired, there are still instances, mainly in the rural areas, where the roads can cause damage to vehicles.
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The City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Finance, Councillor Johan van der Merwe, explains that if any driver is unhappy with the state of the City’s roads and feels as though the roads have caused damage to their vehicle, they are required to report this. “Any person can submit a claim against the City should they be of the opinion that the City and/or its employees were negligent in any way.”
Van Der Merwe explains that once the claim is received, the claim will be logged and a full report will be recorded. “Once all information and documentation is received, a decision regarding legal liability will be made and the claimant will be advised of the outcome of his/her claim”.
Van Der Merwe adds that “every claim that is received will be assessed on its own merits, which includes an assessment of whether there has been any negligence or omission on the City’s side”.
The City of Cape Town does, however, advise that all drivers should have their own vehicle insurance but if they choose not to, they will be driving at their own risk.
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