They’re a major contributor to axle and suspension failure, causing British motorists £2.8 billion every year and authorities £30 million in compensation; but due to lack of funding, a pothole is a common sight on UK roads.
The fact is that authorities are underfunded by around £1 billion every year. Even if they had sufficient funding, it would take 12 years to get on top of the backlog.
But despite the damage potholes frequently inflict, making a claim against the council is not an easy process. Whether or not you find success with making a claim, there is the opportunity for compensation if you’re willing to put the effort in.
Report the pothole
Gather as much evidence as you can to describe the pothole, including depth, diameter and location when reporting it to the relevant authority. This will help the relevant authority check the pothole and general repair status of that road, while your initial contact will be recorded.
Even if you’re unsuccessful in your claim, you could be helping drivers of other cars avoid a similar fate.
Make a claim
Once you have some quotes from garages you’re ready to make a claim. Any damage which renders the car unsafe to drive should be repaired right away regardless of whether or not you can claim, but cosmetic damage can wait if you’re not sure whether you could afford repairs without compensation.
Include all necessary details including date, time, location of the pothole and damage sustained in your contact with the relevant authority, and remain collected and civil in your request for compensation.
The response will likely be that all reasonable steps were taken to maintain the road, as per Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, so don’t be surprised if your claim is rejected in the first instance.
Persisting with your claim takes more effort from this point on, but your manner should remain calm at all times – threatening the authority with legal action will not help your case, even if this outcome is looking increasingly likely.
You can dispute the rejection by finding out for yourself whether indeed reasonable steps had been taken.
Submit a Freedom of Information request to the authority to find out:
- if any inspections had been carried out on the stretch of road in question in the two years prior to your claim
- if there were any defects identified during that inspection
- how significant a pothole needs to be before it’s repaired
- whether there have been any other complaints or reports on the same stretch of road in the past two year
- the time between a pothole being reported and repaired on this stretch of road
In light of this information, you can respond to your claim rejection and outline why you believe reasonable steps weren’t taken to maintain the road, if indeed this is the case.
They will either respond with an offer for compensation, or reasons for which they believe they’re still not liable.
Consider carefully whether the case is strong enough to be successful if taken to court and whether the legal fees are worth it compared to the cost of repairing your car. Some solicitors may offer free half-hour consultations, so it’s worth seeking advice first before paying to proceed.
Potholes and car insurance
If you’re unsuccessful in your pursuit of compensation from the council and unwilling to take matters further, you could claim on your motor insurance – depending on your policy. Just be aware that this will likely be dealt with as an “at-fault” claim, such as if you were to scrape your car alongside a wall. This means you could lose your no-claims bonus.
Check with your insurer to see whether you can make a claim and to find out if it’s worth it in the long run. Make sure you have the right car insurnace, call us on 0113 2500377.