How do I make a pothole damage claim?
We’re all familiar with the sickening thud that makes you wince and curse as your precious car clunks into a deep pothole. However, many of us rarely take the time to assess any potential damage to our vehicle (or bicycle) or bother to make a pothole damage claim.
UK councils fill in potholes every 19 seconds and in 2020/21 spent £93.6 million on remedying approximately 1.7 million potholes in the UK. But, despite this, there’s still rarely a journey you can make without encountering at least one dreaded pothole.
On 15 February 2021, the Department for Transport (DfT) allocated a whopping £500 million between all local authorities in England to fund pothole repairs and this funding is ‘expected to fix the equivalent of 10 million potholes’. However, experts still feel this amount is insufficient for the huge volume of pothole repairs UK roads desperately need.
So if you’re constantly clunking your way to work and perhaps splashing coffee all over your dashboard, here’s how to go about making a successful claim for pothole damage.
How to claim for pothole damage: 7 steps
How to claim for pothole damage: 7 steps
To have any hope at all of successfully claiming for pothole damage that results in a pothole compensation payout, there are several steps you should take to collate strong supporting evidence before you submit a pothole claim.
After a pothole incident, if it’s safe to do so, pull over, put on your hazard lights and make an initial quick check for pothole damage to vehicle or get a professional/mechanic to check for you.
Damage to look out for includes:
- Tyres - look for a bulge or egg shape on the sidewall
- Wheels - check for visible cracks in the wheel
- Suspension and axles - check track rod ends, coil springs, suspension wishbones or for leaking grease
- Bodywork - including scraped undercarriage or catalytic converter
And you may notice when you drive your car:
- a shaking steering wheel - could mean pothole damage to vehicle suspension and/or your tyres are unbalanced
- it pulls to one side - tracking probably knocked out
- wheels vibrating or your brakes and acceleration are not as sharp as normal - could be damaged axles
- it’s bouncier/bumpier than usual - your suspension may be damaged - more info on how to check damage to your suspension, including the “bounce test”
- a drop in tyre pressure - could mean tyres are damaged
If you notice or suspect pothole damage to your vehicle, you should immediately take your car, van, truck, lorry, motorcycle or moped to a reputable garage for the damage to be professionally checked and documented. You should not continue to drive a seriously damaged vehicle as this could have serious consequences for you or any passengers.
Evidence you should gather to claim pothole damage includes:
- Measuring the pothole’s width and depth (but not on a motorway!) - a depth of 40mm (approximately 1.5 inches) or more gives your claim a much better chance. Putting a coin or pen alongside the hole can help give a visual reference to the size. If you have a tape measure, take a picture of the tape measure showing the width and depth.
- Location (road name and postcode of where pothole is located) - you could drop a pin on Google Maps or use What3Words to accurately show location.
- Time and date of incident.
- Witness(es)’ names and contact details (if applicable).
- Close-up photographs of the pothole and more distant photos to show location of the pothole on the road. Also photograph nearby road signs or landmarks and try to ensure the photographs and video are date and time stamped (you can turn a timestamp on in the camera settings on most android phones but usually have to download a third party app to do so on an iPhone).
- Making notes of all damage caused to your vehicle.
- A mechanic’s report or a detailed receipt for repair works carried out.
To further strengthen your case, you can check if anyone has previously reported the same pothole on the ‘pothole map’.
You can also submit a freedom of information request to the local council to check if they’ve been negligent in inspecting and repairing the road as frequently as they should have done.
Check the road type - is it a small local road, a B road or a small A road, or is it a larger A road or motorway?
Local authorities are usually responsible for fixing local roads, B roads and smaller A roads that fall within their jurisdictional boundaries. (You can search for a local Council in England and Wales using a postcode for the pothole location here or for Scotland, here.)
Each UK country’s government road agency is usually responsible for larger A-roads and motorways, especially where they cross over several local authority areas.
You should report the pothole damage (whether or not you intend to make a claim), in writing by letter or email (if you do intend to claim), to:
- the local authority for local roads, B roads and small A roads (you can use the gov.uk’s report a pothole tool by entering the postcode of the road)
- the relevant country’s highways authority for larger A-roads or motorways:
- Report a pothole England to National Highways (formerly Highways England and Highway Agency)
- Report a pothole Wales to Traffic Wales
- Report a pothole Scotland to Transport Scotland
- Report a pothole Northern Ireland to NI Direct
- your insurer (to document that your vehicle is damaged and to fall back on should your claim be unsuccessful)
If you haven’t done so already and you think your own evidence is weak, take your vehicle to get it mechanically checked for pothole damage and ask the garage to provide a written quote for any necessary repair works - it’s best to get at least three quotes from different garages.
If you want or need to have your vehicle repaired, go with the cheapest garage and keep a receipt. Ask the garage to confirm in writing the repair work done and that they suspect the damage was caused by a pothole.
You should request a pothole claim form from the relevant local authority or national road agency and complete and send this by registered mail with a covering letter.
A local authority has 30 days in which to respond to your claim and if they don’t respond in that timeframe, you can raise a complaint.
The local authority may accept your claim in its entirety, only partially accept your claim or completely reject it.
You might be interested to read: How to renew your Driving Licence at 70
A shocking 99% of claims can be rejected by certain cash-strapped councils and if the damage to your car is significant, you may therefore have to resort to:
- Lodging an appeal (if this is an option) and if you haven’t done so already, you should try to prove the local council failed its road maintenance duty under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980.
- Issuing a Small Claims Court claim or instructing specialist pothole claim solicitors with a view to issuing Court proceedings (search for a Solicitor offering a no win, no fee pothole claim service)
- Claiming on your insurance (if you don’t want the hassle of court proceedings and depending on the severity and cost of damages - bear in mind you usually have to pay an excess and a claim could also affect your no claims bonus)
Note: Receiving compensation for a pothole claim is never guaranteed and a claim can take a long while to conclude.
Yes, cyclists are just as entitled as drivers to claim pothole damage for their bicycle and (if applicable) physical injury to their body which can also include a condition called Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
So if you have a pothole accident on your bike you should:
- check for damage to your bike or accessories and keep detailed notes
- follow steps 2 to 7 above (for step 6, consider taking your bicycle to a specialist bicycle repair shop and either get a quote for repairs or get the repairs done and make sure you get a detailed breakdown of work on a receipted invoice)
- make a doctor’s appointment or go to a walk-in centre to get any personal injury/ies assessed and documented
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