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Car's hit a pothole? Could you claim?

Published 28 December 2015 by

If we were to ask British drivers what the one thing they would change about the state of UK roads is, we bet that one of the top answers would be potholes. Potholes have plagued Britain’s roads for years, with an estimated 30,000 potholes awaiting repair on UK roads. If you’ve recently hit a pothole when driving, we’re going to walk you through whether you could make a claim.

What to do first

Regardless of whether you’re intending to make a claim for damage done to your car, the first thing you should do is report the pothole to your local Highway Authority. There are a number of different authorities responsible for maintaining certain roads, and you can use to find your local one. If the pothole is on a motorway or major A road, you should contact Highways England.

Is your car damaged?

Britain’s highway authorities and agencies have a legal obligation to maintain roads to a certain standard. If your vehicle’s been damaged because the roads have not been maintained properly (for example due to a pothole) then you can make a claim.

To back this up, you’ll need proof of the existence of the pothole and any damage done to your vehicle, so start collecting this as soon as possible. If it’s safe to do so, measure the depth of the pothole and note this down. A pothole is defined as being 40mm or more deep, so if it matches this depth then it could be well worth pursuing. If not, it’s still worth making a claim although you might not receive the full cost of the repairs.

Pictures will be useful for showing the position and location of the pothole on the road and any visible damage done to your car, so take close-up and wide-angled shots of the pothole, as well as a few snaps of anything that’s broken, dented or scratched on your vehicle. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t attempt to take pictures on a motorway or major carriageway – leave this to the authorities.

Any documents you can put together could help to boost your case, so make a note of the pothole’s exact location, keep a record of the time and date of the incident and describe the conditions (e.g. the weather on the day and the traffic conditions). If your car needs repairs, keep a copy of the bill and ask for it to be itemised and dated.

Making a claim

The simplest way to make a claim is through your authority’s own claims process. If your local authority does not have this available, contact Highways England instead. All they’ll ask you to do is fill in a form and send this off, although they may request accompanying evidence.

Once you’ve submitted the claim you may receive a win, a partial offer of compensation or a rejection. If your claim is rejected, you could take this further but be warned it’s not going to be as easy. That is because you’re going to have to do a Freedom of Information request to find out if the authority did the appropriate inspections and repairs on the road.

To request this information, all you have to do is email your local authority and state the information you need. When you receive this, you’ll need to sort through it to see whether you can build a strong claim of negligence. If you think there is evidence for this, you’ll have to submit another claim by writing to the authority you believe responsible for this negligence. If you’re still unsuccessful after this, you could take your case to the small claims court.