British roads are ridden with potholes, and unfortunately, one of these days, you may find yourself with a damaged car.
When this happens, you may be tempted to take your car to the garage, leave it there and submit a car insurance claim. But a better option might be to write to your local council and claim for the damage that way instead.
This will not only ensure that you get the maximum compensation for your pothole damage,it will also ensure that you get it as soon as possible.
Here's how to go about claiming compensation if you’ve hit a pothole…
A pothole is a large, pit-like hole in the road which is at least 4 cm (or roughly 1 and a half inches) deep and 30cm wide (or just under a foot).
If the hole is smaller it's probably a 'carriageway defect'. That's just a different name for the same thing.
Potholes are caused by poor quality construction work, road defects, vehicle collisions, and sometimes natural causes. Most roads in the UK have some degree of pothole damage, but some are much worse than others - take this 5 feet wide pothole in England, for example.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance says there are 1.7 million potholes in the UK. That's a lot of potholes!
If your car is damaged as a result of pothole damage, you may be able to claim compensation.
Pothole damage is typically the responsibility of local authorities. This is because they are required to maintain roads within their jurisdiction. However, roads that cross several jurisdictions, such as motorways and A-roads, come under the charge of the following:
While you may be able to claim compensation for pothole damage, it's worth bearing in mind that you can't get any money back for damage to your car caused by debris.
You'll have to make a claim on your car insurance if debris has damaged your car, or you can pay for the repairs yourself.
For the best chance of a successful claim and to get reimbursed for the damage to your car, be sure to follow the steps below:
Even hitting a pothole at low speeds could cause damage to your wheels, broken suspension springs, or damaged shock absorbers. At high speeds, the damage could be more severe and even cause an accident.
If you notice any damage to your car's steering or tracking, don't ignore it! Get your car to a garage or tyre specialist as soon as you can. It might be costly to fix, but it's much more dangerous to ignore the problem.
Your local authority will require pictures of the pothole so that they can assess how big it is.
If you can measure the pothole, even better, but if not, put something like a shoe or a bag next to it when you take a photo so your council can see the size and understand the scale.
Try to collect your photographic evidence on the day you ran over the pothole if you can. If you decide to come back later, the council may have since repaired the pothole and your claim will be very difficult to make.
You should also make a note of the following:
If the pothole has caused damage to your vehicle, it's likely that it will cause damage to others too.
Regardless of whether you're filing a claim or not, you should still report it to the local council, and the more evidence you can provide, the better.
When you take your car to a garage, they should give you a written report of what caused the damage. You’ll need this to make a claim for the pothole damage from your council or local authority.
It’s also worth getting repair quotes from at least two different garages. Keep a record of each one and go with the cheapest. Showing willingness to keep repair costs down could help your pothole claim. If the damage is severe, it’s important to fix your car and then continue with the claim.
Keep copies of all quotes, invoices and receipts to support your claim. This is particularly important if you want to avoid a hefty repair bill after getting your car checked.
Check the specific claims protocol of the authority as they may require you to provide certain information before making a claim.
To make your case as strong as possible, include the following:
Pothole compensation claims have limits, but if you can show that the pothole was the result of the local authority's negligence, you might have a case under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980.
Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 provides councils with a statutory defence if they can show that reasonable care was taken to secure the road and it wasn’t dangerous to traffic.
Local councils can often defend themselves against claims if they can show that they didn't know about the pothole or that they had a system for maintaining and inspecting the road.
This system covers how often roads are inspected, the size of damage to be repaired and how quickly repairs should be carried out.
So, if your pothole claim is rejected, ask to see details of the council's road inspection reports to see if the council did follow it as they should have.
You can make an appeal if your claim is rejected and you think it was unfair.
Your other options are:
You stand a fair chance of having your damage paid for, but it will take some time and there is no guarantee.
In April 2022, What Car? research showed that almost £13m was paid out in pothole compensation to 37,000 drivers.
The strength of your case and the evidence you have affects whether or not your claim will result in the council reimbursing you. Your claim should be accepted as long as you have reported the pothole and have evidence that the pothole caused the damage to your car.
Some claims could take months to resolve, so you might need to be patient.
Every case is different and every council has a slightly different way of handling vehicle damage claims. It can be a lengthy, time-consuming process which can take as little as just a few weeks, but in other cases take more than six months.
Britain's roads aren't great, that's no surprise. Potholes are a common and frustrating problem in the UK. They can often be caused by poorly installed or maintained pavements, or simply by the natural wearing away of the road surface.
In the 2020 Budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a £2.5bn pothole repair fund, with £500m to be shared out between local councils each year for half a decade. The government said that the fund will be enough to repair 10 million potholes.
You should notify your car subscription provider immediately. They will be able to assess the damage, and advise on getting your car repaired for you. This type of damage will be covered by the maintenance and servicing part of your subscription agreement. Whether they pursue a claim is entirely up to them because they own the car.
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