If your car is damaged by a hole in the road, you could be entitled to compensation; our guide tells you what you need to know
The UK is plagued by potholes. They caused an estimated £1.2 billion in damage to vehicles in 2021, while a survey by Kwik Fit found 59% of drivers had hit a pothole in the previous week.
Potholes are formed via a number of methods, but the most common is when water gets into cracks in the road surface, then freezes and expands during winter months, creating gaps that are then broken down by traffic over time.
There are a number of ways potholes can damage your car, with tyres, but punctures, cracked alloy wheels and damaged suspension components are most likely to suffer damage if you hit a pothole.
If your car is damaged by a pothole, however, you may be able to claim for the damage against the local council or traffic agency responsible for the road. There are certain conditions that will need to be met for this to happen, while what action you take can have a bearing on how likely you are to receive compensation.
The steps you should take are:
- Gather evidence
- Get a quote for repairs
- Report the pothole
- Make a claim
- What happens next?
- Can I make an appeal?
1. Gather evidence
If you hit a pothole and your car is damaged, it’s likely you will have been forced to stop close to the offending pothole. Take photographs of the pothole if it is safe to do so, and also take photographs of the damage to your car, assuming this is externally visible.
Depending on the time of day and how busy the road is, you may need to return to the scene of the incident at a different time. If it is possible to do so safely, measure the size of the pothole, including its depth, while if the damage to your car is suspension related, you may need to ask your garage to take photographic evidence.
Either way, you should take notes of the precise details of the incident as soon as you can so that things are fresh in your mind.
2. Get a quote for repairs
You may need to get the car repaired immediately/as soon as possible in order to continue with your journey or not be seriously inconvenienced but, if possible, get a selection of quotes to repair the damage; this may make it more likely that any claim for pothole damage is honoured, as you will be able to show that you got the best-value repair you could.
3. Report the pothole
There is an official Government website that will direct you to the correct authority for reporting a pothole, although bear in mind that if it’s on a motorway or major A road, National Highways rather than the local council will have responsibility for the road, while if it’s a ‘red route’ in London, the road will fall under Transport for London’s remit.
Either way, reporting the pothole will increase the chances of it being fixed, this hopefully reducing the chances of the same fate befalling another driver. Claiming for pothole damage is a separate step.
4. Make a claim
Compile the evidence you have gathered, determine the correct contact details for the authority responsible for maintaining the road in question, and submit your claim, including any quotes or invoices for the damage your vehicle sustained.
5. What happens next?
You may find that your claim is refused, with the authority citing Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980. This details various reasons why a responsible authority can be held not liable for any damage caused by a pothole.
Such reasons include whether the authority took reasonable steps to maintain the road, and ensure it was in a reasonable standard of repair; whether the authority was aware of the pothole that damaged your vehicle; and whether they could reasonably have been expected to repair it between being notified about it, and the damage to your vehicle arising.
6. Can I make an appeal?
You may consider it worth appealing any refusal from the authority. It may be possible to determine how often the road was surveyed, and whether the authority had been previously informed of the pothole in question, simply by asking questions using the appeals process that should be offered as part of the claim process.
You may, however, need to turn to the Freedom of Information Act to ascertain the answers you require, and this requires patience, as authorities have 20 working days to answer requests.
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