How to claim pothole compensation if your car is damaged on the road

Here’s how you can claim compensation from your local council if your car has been damaged by a pothole

Roads across the UK are littered with potholes and if you hit one it can have a serious and costly impact on your car. Think tyre replacements, steering problems and body damage - they can all be down to these pesky holes in the road.

However, in some cases you can get out of paying the bills to repair your car as the local authority responsible for the road is in charge of keeping it well maintained. This means you can claim against it for compensation if a pothole damages your car.

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Which? has broken down how to make a pothole claim and when you will be entitled to compensation.

How to claim for pothole damage

The Which? website has laid out the guidelines for making a claim. Here’s what they said:

  • Collect all the evidence of pothole damage that you can. Make a note of exactly where the pothole is, and take photos showing the depth of the pothole and any damage caused when you hit it. 
  • Report the pothole to your highways agency or local authority. Find out who is responsible for maintaining the road and report the pothole to them. 
  • Keep all receipts for repair work. If you’ve had to get damage to your vehicle or bicycle caused by a pothole fixed urgently, keep your receipt. If you haven’t needed to get the damage fixed urgently, get a quote.
  • Make a claim. Check your local authority’s claims procedure as it may require you to provide certain information before making a claim.
  • Negotiate with the council. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the council on costs for repairs.
  • Appeal a rejected claim. If your claim is rejected, ask to see details of the council’s road inspection reports to see whether the council did follow it as they should have. If it hasn’t, appeal the decision.
  • Take your pothole claim to the small claims court. You can also use the small claims court to pursue your claim, but we suggest you seek legal advice first.
Here’s how you can claim compensation from your local council if your car has been damaged by a pothole Here’s how you can claim compensation from your local council if your car has been damaged by a pothole
Here’s how you can claim compensation from your local council if your car has been damaged by a pothole | Getty Images

James Attew from Which? Legal said: “It is always worth noting that the local authority will attempt to defend any pothole claim against them by showing that they took reasonable steps to maintain and look after that part of the highway.

“To assist you with a pothole claim you should make a request to the authority under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for a copy of the the inspection schedule and reports for the highway in question and any log or record of reports made to the authority about the pothole/highway.”

For example, if either the highway has not been inspected for a significant period, and/or the authority received reports in respect of the damage but failed to repair the highway promptly, this will strengthen your claim.

The authority will be expected to have taken the factual circumstances into account. For example, an important aspect is the character of the highway, the traffic that was reasonably expected to use it and the standard of maintenance that would therefore be required.

Which? said authorities also commonly argue that either the pothole did not cause the damage or the repairs are too expensive. The claimant should consider obtaining an independent report to confirm the cause of the damage and should obtain 2-3 quotes for repairs to demonstrate any cost incurred is reasonable.

As well as making your claim, you should report the pothole to be repaired.

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Drivers are being warned by the DVLA to renew their driving licence | Pexels

How to report a pothole

As well as helping others, your chance of claiming compensation for damage to your car, bike or another vehicle often depends on whether a pothole has already been reported. Councils will allow you to report potholes via their websites. Make sure you include all the supporting evidence you can when reporting a pothole.

To find out which council maintains the road, you can enter the road name, town or postcode on the government website. Alternatively, Cycling UK, a national cycling charity, has a website called Fill That Hole you could use to report a pothole.

This allows you to identify the location of a pothole using Google Maps or via GPS if you download the free iPhone or Android app.

The charity will then report the pothole on your behalf. If the incident happens on a motorway or A-road, you will need to contact the Highways Agency.

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