Pothole and Sinkhole Vehicle Accidents, How to Prevent and Compensate for Them

Portholes are an easy obstacle to encounter. When you’re driving down the road, you might be surprised by a pothole or road rash that appears out of nowhere. Or worse, the car rattles. A sinkhole is the term used when the ground has settled enough to make the news, and it’s not as common to encounter as a pothole. But it’s a more popular term than pothole. Let’s take a look at how to react if you see a pothole or sinkhole while driving, and what to do if you get hit. (Links in [] throughout the article are resources I referenced while writing).

I. What are potholes and sinkholes?

Definitions of potholes and sinkholes

A potholeis a localized hole in the surface of a road, usually caused by poor mixture quality or drainage during road construction. This is the breakdown and deterioration of the surface of asphalt roads, with calcium chloride sprayed to melt snow in winter being the primary cause. When a vehicle drives through a pothole, the sides of the tire can bulge or tear, increasing the risk of an accident due to damage, deformation, or loss of air pressure in the tire or wheel.

A sinkholeis a hole in the ground caused by the erosion of rocks under the ground or the collapse of a cave or other structure that is unable to withstand the forces above it. Sinkholes are usually caused by groundwater escaping or the ground failing to support the weight of the earth, creating a large cylindrical or conical space underground. Sinkholes are primarily caused by natural causes, but can also be caused by human activity, such as strong rainfall or fluctuations due to groundwater development.

White Subaru Car Parked on Street Side

Difference between potholes and sinkholes

Potholes and sinkholes have the following differences.


  • Localized holes in the surface of the road
  • Caused by poor mixture quality or drainage structure in asphalt road construction
  • Increased risk of accidents, such as tire sidewall blowouts or tears


  • The ground settles because rocks under the ground are eroding, caves are collapsing, etc.
  • Can also be caused by human activity, such as groundwater seepage or fluctuations in the weight of the ground.


II. Increase in vehicle accidents due to potholes and sinkholes

Why potholes and sinkholes cause accidents

According to Lee Young-joo, a professor of fire and disaster prevention at Seoul National University, if a vehicle hits a pothole, it can cause tire damage and a traffic accident due to sudden braking. Sinkholes are also known to be a silent source, caused by road subsidence.

Potholes and sinkholes are a leading cause of vehicle accidents

Potholes and sinkholes are emerging as a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. The main causes of accidents caused by potholes and sinkholes include

  • Poor repair and maintenance of roads: Potholes and sinkholes can be caused by daily use and poor maintenance of roads. Negligence in repair and maintenance can lead to damage to the road surface, which can lead to the development of potholes and sinkholes.
  • Weather conditions: Strong rain, heavy downpours, and periodic ice and snow can cause damage to the road’s substructure. These weather conditions can cause roads to settle and create potholes and sinkholes.
  • Underground pipe breaks: Underground pipe ruptures or leaks can cause damage to underground structures. This can lead to road subsidence and the development of potholes and sinkholes.

You can learn more about preventing and dealing with potholes and sinkholes in the articles below.


III. Pothole and Sinkhole Evidence for Car Accident Compensation

How to collect evidence at an incident scene

In order to receive compensation for a car accident caused by a pothole or sinkhole, you must collect the proper evidence at the scene of the accident. Here’s how to gather evidence

  • Record the location of the incident and the surrounding area with photos or videos. The size and location of the pothole or sinkhole should be clearly photographed.
  • Take a detailed shot of the damage to the vehicle. Take photos to prove that the negligence was caused by the pothole or sinkhole, such as a flat tire, broken wheel, or broken spring.

How to photograph pothole and sinkhole locations and vehicle damage

To properly capture the location of potholes and sinkholes and the damage to your vehicle, you can do the following

  • Take a photo with the surrounding terrain or road features to measure the location of the pothole or sinkhole. This allows you to determine the exact location.
  • Take detailed shots of the vehicle’s damage at close range. It’s important to clearly capture the size and shape of the broken area.

Additional documentation and materials required for compensation

You’ll need to submit additional paperwork and materials to receive compensation for car accidents caused by potholes and sinkholes. You’ll need the following materials

  • Accident reports: In the event of an accident, you should call the police and obtain an accident report.
  • Insurance information: You’ll need to submit information about whether you have car insurance.
  • Proof of repair costs: You must provide proof of the cost of repairing your vehicle. You can submit a receipt or estimate for the cost of the repair from a repair shop.

With this evidence and additional documentation, you may be able to obtain compensation for a car accident caused by a pothole or sinkhole. In the event of an incident, it’s important to gather evidence and begin the compensation process as soon as possible.


IV. Pothole and Sinkhole Vehicle Accident Claim Procedures

Information about which organizations and contacts you can file a claim with

The compensation process for vehicle accidents caused by potholes and sinkholes may be subject to state compensation. To file a state reparations claim, you should contact the following organizations and personnel

  1. Police department: You should report to the police at the scene of the accident and file a case. The police will investigate the cause and circumstances of the accident and create a case file.
  2. Auto insurer: You should report the accident to your auto insurer and seek compensation. The insurer will establish the facts of the accident and determine compensation based on the policy.
  3. Road administration: To claim state compensation, you must contact your local road administration. Your highway agency can guide you through the compensation process for accidents caused by potholes or sinkholes.

Documents and procedures to submit for compensation

To apply for state compensation, you must submit the required documentation. You will need to prepare the following documents and procedures

  1. Police report: You’ll need to submit a police report, accident report, photos of the accident scene, and dashcam footage from the police department.
  2. Car insurance documents: You’ll need to submit the documents required by your car insurer. The insurer will look at the details of the accident, photos of the vehicle, repair costs, and more to make a decision about compensation.
  3. Documents to submit to road authorities: You need to submit documents required by road authorities. You’ll usually need to submit proof of road conditions (photos, test results, etc.) along with documentation of the accident.

By completing the above steps and documentation to apply for state compensation, you may be able to receive compensation for your car accident caused by a pothole or sinkhole. This is a procedure to protect the rights and safety of the parties and is important to know.


dirt road, puddles, rural

V. Limitations and Alternatives to Pothole and Sinkhole Car Accident Coverage

When it’s hard to get compensation and what to do about it

For pothole and sinkhole car accidents that are difficult to recover compensation for, you may want to consider the following options:

  • If you’re unable to get compensation, you can document the condition of your vehicle with photos or videos to serve as evidence in your insurance claim.
  • If your vehicle is damaged by a pothole or sinkhole, it’s important to report the incident to your local road authority as soon as possible. This allows you to keep a record of exactly where and what happened.
  • If your compensation is limited, you may want to take advantage of road compensation schemes in cities like Seoul. The road compensation system is a system that provides certain compensation for accidents caused by defects in the road.
  • For pothole and sinkhole coverage, you may want to consider purchasing a “Pothole Rider” as a rider on your auto insurance policy or check your credit card’s “Pothole Rewards Program” to see if you may be eligible for additional coverage.

What you can do to prevent pothole and sinkhole incidents

To prevent pothole and sinkhole vehicle accidents, you can consider the following measures

  • During heavy rains or rainy seasons, water may pool on the road, so you should carefully observe road conditions and do your best to drive safely.
  • You can report defective roads to road management agencies to help ensure they are removed or repaired as soon as possible.
  • When driving a car, you can ensure your safety by regularly checking the condition of your vehicle’s tires and suspension, and keeping it well-maintained.
  • If you find a pothole or sinkhole, notifying nearby drivers and road authorities will help prevent a larger accident.

Preventing pothole and sinkhole vehicle accidents requires both driver attention and active management efforts by roadway agencies.


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