How to make a claim for pothole damage

January 28, 2021

Many of Britain’s roads are in poor condition as a result of underinvestment from the government.

If you hit a pothole that causes damage to your car, you may be able to claim compensation.  Here’s our step-by-step guide to what you should do:

Step 1: Collect evidence and document the damage

Ensure you note down the location of the pothole.  If possible (and safe to do so) take a picture of the pothole.

Ideally, if the road is not too busy, measure the size too.  Record the time and date of the incident and, if there are any witnesses, you should make sure your get their names and contact details.

Take your car to a garage or auto repair shop to have the vehicle assessed as soon as possible.

Step 2: Establish responsibility

You will need to establish which authority is responsible for maintaining the road on which you hit the pothole.  A-roads or motorways will be maintained by the Highways Agency but smaller roads are likely to come under the remit of the local council.

You should contact the relevant governing body as soon as possible to make them aware of the existence of the pothole.  You should do this even if you haven’t had time to get a quote for the damage to your car, as this might help to prevent other motorists from finding themselves in the same situation.

Step 3: Make a formal complaint

Once you’ve got a quote for the cost of the damage to your car, you can submit a formal complaint in writing to the council or the Highways Agency.

Your letter or email should contain as much detail of the accident as possible including times, dates, measurements and photographs. Ensure you include a copy of the repair bill or the receipt for repairing the damages.

Step 4: Persevere

Your claim will only result in compensation if the authority responsible for maintaining that road has failed in its duty.

A council may avoid paying your claim if they can prove they had taken reasonable action to monitor and repair the road, under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980.

If, however, that same pothole has been reported previously and the council have not taken action, you stand a better chance of compensation.

Step 5: Seek legal advice

The council may offer you a settlement that is lower than you’ve asked for.  You may be better to accept the lower amount, if the shortfall is only slight.

However, if you think your claim has been unfairly rejected, you should speak to a solicitor for advice.

Your solicitor will be able to make your case in small claims court, although this carries additional cost and is only worth pursuing if the damage to your vehicle was fairly severe.

Step 7: If all else fails, claim on your insurance

If your claim is unsuccessful, but the damage to your car is substantial, you can claim against your car insurance.

However, this will be considered an “at-fault” claim, so you’ll have to pay an excess and will likely lose some of your no claims bonus.

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