How to claim for pothole damage

  • Drivers are suffering increasingly from the effects of potholes
  • What can be done to redress the damage - can you claim?
  • Avoid damage in the first instance by always driving alert

Potholes can hit your pocket as well as your car

Speak to any driver and most will tell you the condition of the roads, particularly relative to the amount motorists are taxed, is outrageous. In March 2022, singer Rod Stewart was filmed fixing the potholes in his street. The following month, a woman of pension-age who doesn’t even drive stumped up the money to repair her cratered road, after seeing motorists mounting the pavement to avoid potholes and no joy from the property company responsible. Research from Citroen has found that 32% of drivers have had their car damaged by a pothole. The average cost to fix the damage was found to be £142, however more than 10% of drivers have had to pay over £250 for pothole-related repairs.

The study also found that nearly a quarter (24%) of those with vehicle damage said they had tried to claim back the cost of the repairs from their local council, which is why our guide below should be so useful. The findings come as the latest Asphalt Industry Alliance ALARM report is released, showing that local authorities in England and Wales paid £5.9 million in pothole related compensation to drivers in 2019/2020.

Overall, 147,675 miles of the road network in England and Wales is in poor condition. In addition, according to the research, around a quarter of drivers who have hit potholes in 2020 have suffered costly damage to their car, with the most common repairs being to tyres (4.2 million cases reported), wheels (2.7 million cases), suspension (2.4 million cases) and bodywork (1.2 million cases).

It doesn’t help that cars today sit on such low-profile tyres and buyers like to specify sports suspension when given the choice. But with so much damage, what can be done to improve the situation? And what is the advice should the worst happen?

You’ve damaged your car, who is to blame?

Read on to learn more about how to handle pothole damage to your car.

1. Ascertain who is responsible for the road’s maintenance

As you can imagine, it’s not always a straightforward process, but it is possible to claim for pothole damage if you’re patient and methodical. The first thing to consider is whether you need to claim against the council or Highways England. As a guide, if it’s a local B-road or smaller A-road, it’s probably the former, whereas larger inter-city routes are the responsibility of the latter.

2. Gather as much information as you can

If you think your car has been damaged by a pothole, the first thing to do is stop. Don’t think that you’ll do it later, because the memory has a nasty habit of playing tricks on you. So, stop, take notes, and also take photos of the pothole. You need to capture what you see at the scene of the incident, but also record any damage done to your car. If someone saw it happen, get their details and record them as a potential witness.

3. Work out the cost of the repair

If the damage is bad, then make sure you get a number of quotes in writing before committing to a repair. This serves two purposes – you get the best price, but you also have a written record of the costs when it comes to making a claim.

4. Notify the authorities

You should also notify the authorities about the pothole via the gov.uk website, which has a page set-up just for this. Then, write a letter to the council or Highways England (if it’s an A-road or motorway) outlining where the damage was caused, how bad the damage is, and what it’s going to cost (or has already cost) to get it repaired.

>> Click to report a pothole on the gov.uk website

5. What happens next?

You’ll then get a response within 14 days, which generally is a refusal to pay under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980. Don’t worry, this is a default response that says that the authorities took reasonable steps to maintain the road to the best of their ability. This is the legal point that you can appeal against. Because this is your chance to determine whether the authority has fulfilled the Section 58 obligations by asking them to prove when the last inspection took place, and whether it was up to standard or not.

6. Do you have a case?

If the answers provided by the authorities aren’t up to scratch and you really do think you have a case, then write back with your points, and outline once again your costs. When it gets to this point, the authority will either pay up, make an offer or leave you with the choice of taking it to small claims court. The good news is that taking things to court is relatively inexpensive and easy – and local authorities would prefer to avoid this preferring to settle any claim beforehand.

How to avoid pothole damage in the first place

Always be alert, read the road ahead, and be particularly vigilant in times of changeable weather. The biggest time of risk is during a thaw following a period of frozen weather, but also when it’s extremely warm, when roads are in danger of breaking up. It’s always a good idea to look out for any darker patches or puddles that could be concealing hidden dangers.

Has your car been damaged by potholes? Get in touch with us to let us know you you got on claiming…

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>> Nine out of 10 drivers affected by potholes in 2020

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