Encountering a troublesome pothole can send a disconcerting thud through your vehicle, signaling potential damage and looming repair costs. Yet, those responsible for maintaining the roads are legally obligated to ensure their proper upkeep. If they fall short of this duty, they are liable to cover the expenses for necessary repairs. Recent findings from Citroën’s latest research reveal that local authorities disbursed over £22.7 million in compensation during the previous year. To guide you through the process, we’ve crafted a comprehensive, easy-to-follow guide to help you secure your rightful reimbursement.
A pothole is a type of road surface defect or depression, at least 4cm deep, caused by a combination of factors such as traffic wear, weather conditions, and age. These road imperfections often start as small cracks or holes, exacerbated by freezing and expanding water, leading to pavement deterioration and the creation of depressions or holes in the road surface.
Common Types of Damage Caused by Potholes
Damage resulting from hitting a pothole can include suspension or steering misalignment problems, blown tyres or punctures, tyre sidewall bulges, wheel rim damage, exhaust system damage, and fluid leaks.
Claiming for Pothole Damage
Potholes pose a persistent challenge on UK roads, with a projected 14-year timeline to address the backlog despite diligent efforts by local councils. The government’s commitment, reaffirmed in the Spring 2023 Budget, includes an additional £200 million to tackle the issue over the next 12 months.
For drivers grappling with pothole-induced damage, initiating a claim may seem complex. However, if the responsible authority falls short of its duty, you have a legitimate opportunity to secure full reimbursement for necessary repairs. Eligibility hinges on whether the authority could and should have resolved the issue before it led to damage.
Contributing to road safety by reporting potholes is a civic responsibility. If the authority neglected necessary inspections and repairs, filing for compensation becomes crucial to exert pressure for road safety. However, considering the use of taxpayers’ money, ethical considerations weigh heavily, and careful consideration is necessary.
Responsibility for Pothole Repair
Local authorities are typically responsible for pothole repair and addressing car damage. For roads traversing multiple areas, responsibility shifts to agencies such as Highways England, the Department for Infrastructure, Transport Scotland, and Traffic Wales.
Debris on the road does not qualify for reimbursement. If your vehicle sustains damage due to debris, initiate a claim through your car insurance provider or cover the repair costs independently.
England – Highways England
Scotland – Transport Scotland
Wales – Traffic Wales
Northern Ireland – Department for Infrastructure
What to Do if a Pothole Damages Your Car
1. Gather Evidence
- Take photographs of the pothole on the same day, providing a reference point for size comparison.
- Record the date, time, and precise location of the incident.
- Collect contact information for potential witnesses.
- Document the damage to your vehicle and note any additional damage discovered later.
2. Report the Pothole and Submit a 'Fast Claim'
- Identify the responsible authority and report the pothole promptly.
- Utilize the authority’s official claims procedure, if available, for an expedited resolution.
- Follow specific protocols for different authorities in England, Wales, Scotland, London, and Northern Ireland.
3. Get Repair Quotes from Different Garages
- Request a written damage assessment report from the repair shop.
- Obtain repair estimates from at least two garages.
- Maintain thorough records of quotes, invoices, and receipts to support your claim.
After Submitting Your Claim
Expect a confirmation of claim receipt. Depending on the situation, you might be redirected to a claims management firm working on behalf of the council, resulting in a response in a few months. If not, the waiting period for a response is typically around one month.
Response scenarios include full reimbursement, partial offers, or claim rejection. Unsuccessful claims may lead to considering a claim through your car insurance, potentially impacting future premiums.
Rejected Claim or Unable to Use 'Fast Claim'?
If a ‘fast claim’ was not an option or if denied, pursue a full claim by submitting a Freedom of Information request to establish whether the authority fulfilled its obligation to inspect and maintain the road. Authorities may settle if negligence is proven, but in some instances, small claims court may be necessary for legal action.
Steps for Full Claim:
- Make a Freedom of Information request.
- Review the information to understand inspection frequency.
- Check if the authority followed its policy.
- Submit your claim with evidence and invoices.
Note: Scottish organizations may charge for FOI requests exceeding £100 in cost.
Navigating the aftermath of pothole damage requires meticulous documentation, adherence to specific authority procedures, and patience throughout the claims process.
Important Note. In the case of a rejected claim, you may consider claiming on your car insurance policy, which could impact your premiums. Small claims court is an option for claims up to £10,000 in England and Wales or £5,000 in Scotland. The process involves making a Freedom of Information request, reviewing inspection logs, checking policy adherence, and submitting a claim with supporting evidence.