What is a pothole?
Potholes are caused by water seeping into tiny cracks in the road – cracks often caused by vehicles. When this water freezes and expands, it creates gaps that widen into big holes in the road.
These holes vary in size and shape, and are more common in winter due to the weather conditions.
Potholes are a major problem on British roads and can cause serious damage to cars. As many a driver will testify, they can do all sorts of damage to tyres, wheels and axles.
How do you report a pothole?
As potholes pose a potential safety hazard, you need to be proactive about reporting holes that could be a problem.
This is also important for those trying to claim – as a claim is far more likely to be successful if the pothole has already been reported.
If you want to report a pothole, you can do this at gov.uk/report-pothole. Simply go to the website and type in the postcode of the road where you found the hole.
If the pothole is on a motorway or A-road managed by Highways England, you need to contact them. You can do this by sending an email to email@example.com or by calling 0300 123 5000.
How to claim for pothole damage?
If you are unlucky enough to have suffered damage to your car due to a pothole, you may be able to claim compensation from the body controlling the road.
The key is being able to prove that the relevant authority has failed in its legal duty to maintain the road to a fit standard so that it is safe to use.
Who do I address my claim to?
When making a claim, it’s important to address it to the correct authority. Send it to the wrong place, and you could face delays – or risk your claim not getting seen at all.
- Generally speaking, councils are responsible for smaller roads, such as local roads and B-roads. For England and Wales, you can find the relevant council by typing in the postcode at gov.uk. For Scotland, visit the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities
- If the pothole is on a major A-road or motorway in England, you need to contact Highways England (as above)
- If the pothole is on a major road or motorway in Scotland, find the relevant authority at Transport Scotland
- If the pothole is on a major road or motorway in Wales, contact Traffic Wales
- If the pothole is on a ‘red route’ in Greater London, contact Transport for London
Is there a pothole damage claim letter?
When you lodge a claim, the relevant authority will usually have its own claims process. Generally speaking, this involves you receiving a ‘damage report’ form which you must fill in.
If the authority in question does offer a claims process, this should always be your first port of call.
When making a claim, the key is to provide as much evidence as you can – to prove the authority responsible for the road was negligent. So in addition to the evidence requested by the authority, it’s also worth including any additional evidence you have, as this can boost your chances of success.
What evidence do I need to provide?
The more supporting evidence you have, the stronger your case will be. This should include:
- Details of the location of the pothole and its position on the road
- Details of its size, shape, width and depth
- Photos of the pothole – ideally from the day the damage occurred. If possible, try and show how deep the hole is
- Keep a record of the accident, and when you hit the pothole. Try and take notes as soon as you can after the event
- Get details of any witnesses who saw the incident
- Take photos of the damage to your car, including any dents or scratches
- If you’ve not yet had repairs carried out, provide details of quotes showing the estimated cost of fixing your vehicle
- If you’ve already had work carried out, provide copies of invoices and receipts. Make sure bills are itemised and dated
How much might I win?
Generally speaking, payouts for car damage caused by potholes are around £300-£500, though while some motorists get the entire claim paid out in compensation, some win only part of the cost.
Also note that while some claims may be approved in a matter of weeks, other motorists have to wait several months for compensation.
Weigh up whether it’s worth negotiating
If a council does offer to pay compensation, you don’t have to accept the first offer – and you can negotiate. But before doing this, weigh up whether it’s worth doing so given the extra time, effort and inconvenience this might involve.
What defence do councils have?
When thinking about making a claim, be aware that councils have a defence that they cannot be held liable for a pothole (or other road defect) they are not aware of.
They may argue this is because either:
- The pothole had not been reported
- Their own system of maintenance had not picked it up
What if my claim gets rejected?
If the council can prove they have a regular inspection and maintenance system in place, they may be able to reject your claim (under Section 58 of the Highways Act).
If this happens, you may be able to make a ‘full’ claim. This is a lot more complicated and involves requesting the council’s reports to see whether they have actually carried out a ‘reasonable’ system of inspection and repair.
If you can prove the council wasn’t doing a ‘reasonable’ job, you may have grounds to appeal the decision – and argue it should pay for your repairs.
Don’t give up
Claiming for pothole damage can feel daunting, and it can be an arduous process. That said, there are successes, so it is worth persevering.
Should I try the small claims court?
One further option you might want to consider is taking your claim to the small claims court. This can be expensive, however, as you could be liable for legal costs if you fail.
With this in mind, this should only be viewed as a last resort, and you should seek legal advice first.
Compare car insurance for potholes
Of course you can always choose to make a claim on your car insurance instead, but given that the pay-outs tend to be quite small, you may not end up getting much back after your excess is taken into account. You’ll also jeopardise your no-claims discount.
The best way to get car insurance is by comparing policies with MoneySuperMarket. Tell us a few details about yourself and your car, and we’ll do the rest, providing you with a range of competitive quotes from dozens of providers.