How to claim for pothole damage

Potholes are the bane of a motorist’s life – one bump and you can wave goodbye to several hundred pounds as well as having the inconvenience of spending time and energy getting your car back up and running safely. But did you know that it might be possible to get your money back?

In fact, Highway England says there’s been a massive rise in drivers seeking compensation for vehicle damage from potholes. There were 528 successful claims last year, up from 212 in 2016-17 and 187 in 2015-16.

Not all claims are straightforward and success is not 100% guaranteed, but this short guide might help you smoothly steer your way to compensation success.

Unfortunately potholes are a fact of life, especially in cold weather. But the key question for a successful claim is whether the authority could and should have repaired the hole before your accident.

1 Hole lot of evidence
As soon as you hit the hole, find somewhere safe to stop and compile as much evidence as you can. Take photos of the pothole, the surrounding area and all the damage to your car. If there are witnesses, get their details. Write down what happened when it’s fresh in your mind because it’s easy to forget details later. A sketch of where the pothole was and what is nearby can be helpful. Then get estimates from your mechanic for the repairs and keep copies of all bills. You’ll have to prove the damage was due to the impact of the pothole and wasn’t there before. A letter from your garage should do the trick.

2 Love thy driver
Whether or not you’re going to seek compensation, reporting a pothole alerts the authority that there’s a problem which needs attention. If nobody has told the council there’s a problem then it’s never going to be fixed. In the very least, it will hopefully stop it from happening to another motorist. Try to find out who is responsible for maintaining the road and report the pothole. Be aware that different authorities look after different road types.

3 Fast action
When you report the pothole, ask for a compensation form or see if there’s one on the authority’s website. Send in your claim with all your supporting evidence and cross your fingers. You may be lucky enough to recover all your costs, be offered a partial amount or have your claim rejected. Be prepared to negotiate if the authority gives you an offer.

4 Slow lane
Don’t give up if your claim is rejected, there’s still a way to progress but it will require more time and research. You’ll need to send a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to the relevant authority in order to get the history of how the road in question was maintained to see if it appears that the authority has been negligent in some way. The FoI will also give you the authority’s road repair policy which you will need to study and cross-reference with the maintenance history to see if you feel the authority has been negligent in some way. Again, submit a claim with all your evidence in detail and clearly state your case as to why you feel the authority has failed in its duty.

5 No brakes
Hopefully this detailed claim will have come up trumps for you, but don’t despair if it’s rejected. The next step would be to take your claim to the small claims court (or sheriff's court in Scotland). But you’d need to feel you have a strong case to do this as there are fees if you lose.

If you want to find out more about getting compensation for pothole damage, Martin Lewis’s website MoneySavingExpert (https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/pothole-claims/) has excellent in-depth information, including a range of template letter for claims. The RAC’s website also has some useful tips, and includes advice to motorists on how to drive on potholed roads (https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/road-safety/report-a-pothole/).

May your driving be a whole lot of fun without a whole load of holes!

Safe driving.

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