Can you dig it? Britain’s £3m pothole compo crisis

Potholes are a massive problem for motorists and local authorities alike. Not only do they cost motorists and councils millions of pounds in repair bills, the RAC Foundation says councils paid out more than £3 million in compensation in the last financial year.

Claims up, payments down

A total of 48,664 claims for pothole damage were made in 2013/14, which is an increase of 2,525 on the number of claims made in 2012/13. And although just under a quarter (23%) of claims were actually upheld, this still came at a cost of £3.2 million to local authorities. However, while the number of claims increased, the amount paid out by local councils actually fell by £1million as the average pay-out for pothole damage dropped from £357 in 2012/13 to £286 in 2013/14. The average admin cost for a claim, whether successful or not, also dropped from £150 to £147. Here’s how the figures for 2013/14 break down (2012/13 figures are in brackets)

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It’s unlikely that claim rates reflect the true scale of the problem as many motorists will be reluctant to make a claim due to the laborious claims procedure and the relatively low success rates. Some might not even be aware they can claim against their local authority. And some problems caused by potholes – either in one go or gradually over a series of incidents – might be interpreted as normal wear-and-tear or routine structural damage. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “These figures are likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Many drivers will be put off by the time involved in claiming against a council, and many councils do their best to deter claimants coming forward. “But the fundamental problem lies not at the doors of our town halls but with central government. Despite occasional one-off grants related to periods of harsh weather, they are simply not giving councils enough money to keep their road networks up to scratch.” He added: “In England, local authorities themselves estimate the maintenance backlog to be about £12 billion yet over the past five years spending on roads in real terms has dropped 22% across England and Wales. “Worn-out road surfaces do not simply cause damage to vehicles they are also potentially lethal, particularly for two-wheeled road users.”

How to report a pothole

While we can’t do anything to cut the amount of red tape involved in making a claim for pothole damage, we have teamed up with Street Repairs to make the process of reporting a pothole a lot easier. Simply fill in the form below and your local authority will be able to add the pothole to its list. And with the pothole reported, you can then go about making a claim, so make sure you read How to make a claim for pothole damage.

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