If you’ve been unfortunate enough to incur pothole damage to your car, you’ll know how frustrating it is to have to fork out for repairs for damage caused by poor quality roads. Sometimes, even seemingly minor holes can cause damage to your tyres, wheels, suspension or steering. Hit one at speed and the damage can be severe. Besides being very cautious and keeping a lookout, there’s little you can do to avoid potholes all the time and eventually, you’ll hit one that you just couldn’t avoid.
Making a pothole damage claim
With the average pothole damage repair bill costing £157.75, it probably doesn’t make sense to make a claim through your own vehicle insurer – as this can lead to increased premiums and a loss of NDC (No Claims Discount). Many people decide to just accept the cost and pay it, but in many cases, these costs could be claimed back from the authority responsible for maintaining the road. In order to do this, it is important to ensure that you gather evidence and follow the correct process. Please read on for more on how to do this.
How to make a claim
- Check for damage
If you hit a pothole, pull over as soon as is safe and check your vehicle for damage. A visual inspection will allow you to see dented wheels or damaged tyres. If the vehicle is parked on level ground, check to see if it is sitting level. If there were any witnesses, ensure you get their details.
Other damage may not be immediately obvious, so drive on carefully and pay close attention for any unusual sounds, vibration or shaking, the car not driving straight when the steering is centred, or the car pulling to one side. If you identify any damage, get your vehicle to a garage as soon as possible.
- Record information
Write down everything you can about the incident – exact location (road name/number/landmarks), and add these to the contact details of any witnesses if you have them. If it is safe to do so, take photos of the pothole. Use a familiar object for scale, such as a credit card (for depth) or a shoe (for length). Do not put yourself in danger to do this, and remember it is a criminal offence to trespass on the motorway.
- Report the pothole
Regardless of whether you intend to claim back the cost of the damage, you should report the pothole to the local authority. They can arrange for the necessary road repair, preventing further vehicles from being damaged. Click here for the GOV.UK pothole reporting page.
- Repair your car
If you intend to claim back the cost of the repair, it is advisable to obtain several quotes first. Showing that you have demonstrated an attempt to keep costs down will improve your chances of having your claim paid out with the minimum fuss. Ensure you keep written quotes, invoices and receipts and always keep the original copies.
- Make your claim
Using the above GOV.UK link, find out who you need to submit your claim to and write to them. Include copies of all the evidence and repair cost documentation you have. Please be aware that although you may be able to claim for the cost of repairs, the relevant authority may be able to use a statutory defence – they cannot be held responsible for a pothole they were unaware of because it hadn’t been reported to them. They should however be carrying our regular checks, and if the pothole was missed during one of these you may still be able to claim.
If your claim is rejected you can ask to see details of the road inspection reports. If the local authority is unable to prove that suitable checks were conducted, your claim is more likely to be successful. By law, authorities must have a system for road inspection and repair which states how often checks are carried out, the scale of road damage that warrants repair, and the timescales for completing the work. Many councils consider a ‘pothole’ to be one that is at least 40mm deep – approximately the height of two 20p coins.
If the damage to your vehicle is extensive, you may need to claim on your vehicle insurance. Many policies include legal cover, which may be able to help you pursue your claim further if it has previously been rejected.