Last week we looked at how potholes are formed, and how you can avoid them and report them. We know that it is incredibly frustrating when your vehicle is damaged, particularly if it is not your fault. If your car is damaged as the result of an unavoidable pothole, you might be able to seek compensation from your Local Authority.
Your eligibility for compensation will depend on whether or not anybody else has reported the pothole previously. If they haven’t, then the Local Authority can’t be held responsible - their statutory defence is that the council can’t be responsible for something that they don’t know about. If you can’t get compensation, you might be covered by insurance, but be aware of the impact that this could have on your excess.
If you hit a pothole and damage your vehicle (whether it is a car, van, motorbike or bicycle), follow these steps:
- Take notes immediately. As soon as you can, park up safely. Write down the details of the incident, including time, date, location of the pothole as well as its rough size, shape and depth. If you can, and it is safe, measure the pothole, or take photos of it with something to indicate scale.
- Ask witnesses for support. If anyone saw the incident; either passengers in your vehicle or other road users, record their details.
- Get quotes. Visit your local garage – or two, if you can, to get quotes for repairs. If you have to get your vehicle fixed immediately, keep all receipts and bills to support your claim.
- Make your claim. The first step to making your claim is to make sure you claim from the correct authority. Depending on where the pothole is, major roads are the responsibility of Highways England, Transport Scotland, Traffic Wales or the NI Department for Infrastructure. Other roads are the responsibility of your local council. Once you know who to contact, get in touch and tell them about your complaint. If they believe that you have a case, they will send you a form to fill in. You will need to provide evidence of the issue and damage caused, as well as costs or estimates for repairs, evidence of your MOT and photos of the damage.
- Plan for failure. The Highways Authority is likely to reject your claim. They can claim statutory defence if either they can prove that the pothole has not been reported previously, or if they can prove that they have a regular inspection and repair system in operation.
- Research their response. If the authority rejects your application, take a look at their website to see if they can prove their inspection and repair system.
- Negotiate. If the authority makes you an offer, even if it is below your repair costs, it is worth seriously considering. Taking the claim further could end up costing you time, money and stress; is it worth it?
This can be a frustrating process, so if the damage is relatively minor, it may be worth getting it fixed by yourself. Need a quote? Contact your local garage.