How to claim for pothole damage to your car

If your car has been damaged by a pothole, it may be possible to claim compensation from the relevant authority. Here's what you need to know.

Worst pothole in the UK

Highways England paid out nearly £675,000 in compensation for pothole damage to cars in the period from 1 April 2018 to 31 August 2020. This is according to a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Of the 3,274 claims received, a total of 2,140 were successful. The majority of claims for pothole damage were paid out in the 2018/2019 financial year, following a particularly harsh winter in 2017/2018.

To be classified as safety defects, potholes are generally wider than 15cm (6 inches) diameter, or deeper than 4cm (1.5 inches) of the road surface thickness. Hit one, and you risk damage to the car’s wheels, tyres, suspension, steering or bodywork.

According to the RAC Pothole Index, drivers are now 1.5 times more likely to suffer a pothole breakdown than in 2016. Despite the country being in various stages of lockdown from April to the end of June, RAC patrols still had to respond to 1,766 drivers who had suffered pothole damage.

How to claim for pothole damage

Pothole repairs UK roads

If your car has been damaged by a pothole, it’s possible to claim compensation. The success of the claim will depend on whether the pothole has been reported. Councils are not liable for a defect they are not aware of.

The organisation you contact depends on the location and type of road. In all cases, you will need to be armed with the following information:

  • Details of the pothole damage.
  • Why you think the organisation is responsible.
  • The specific location where the damage took place. Include the road name and the nearest marker post number or feature.
  • The date and time the pothole damage was caused.

Who to contact to make a claim for pothole damage

England

  • Most A-roads and motorways: Highways England on 0300 123500 or info@highwaysengland.co.uk.
  • London red routes: Transport for London on 0343 222 1234.
  • Other roads: contact the local council. You can use this link to identify the council in question and to report a pothole.

Scotland

  • Most A-roads and motorways: Traffic Scotland on 0800 028 1414 or info@trafficscotland.org.
  • Other roads: contact the local council.

Wales

  • Most A-roads and motorways: Traffic Wales on 0300 123 1213 or contact@traffic-wales.com.
  • Other roads: contact the local council.

Northern Ireland

Will the claim for pothole damage be successful?

Road workers fixing a pothole

Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 provides local authorities with a statutory defence if they can prove that reasonable car was taken to secure the road and the pothole wasn’t dangerous to traffic. This means they may not be liable if they were unaware of the pothole or it wasn’t picked up by their own system of maintenance.

According to Which?, you should take the following steps when making a claim for pothole damage:

  • Collect evidence of pothole damage. Make a note of the precise location, take photos showing the depth of the pothole and damage to the car. Do not put yourself in danger when collecting evidence. Trespassing on a motorway is a criminal offence, so do not visit or try to photograph the location where your vehicle was damaged.
  • Report the pothole to the relevant authority.
  • Keep all receipts for repair work. If you haven’t fixed the damage, get a quote.
  • Make a claim. Check the specific procedure for making a claim.
  • Negotiate with the council. If you receive an offer, you may be able to negotiate.
  • Appeal a rejected claim. Ask to see the details of the council’s road inspection reports. You can also use the small claims court to pursue a claim.

More information

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Gavin Braithwaite-Smithhttp://www.petrolblog.com
Writer with a penchant for #FrenchTat. Also doing a passable impression of Cousin Eddie in an Italian-German beige motorhome.

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