Newly released research by the Asphalt Industry Alliance reveals that between 2022 and 2023, more than 1.4 million potholes were filled in England and Wales. That works out as one every 22 seconds at a total cost of £93.7 million. In fact, over the last ten years, fixing potholes cost a staggering £1 billion.
But while many of us know that potholes are rife on our roads and try to avoid them, what happens if you can’t? Here, we take a look at what you can do if a pothole damages your car.
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Who is responsible for repairing potholes?
Confusingly, UK roads are maintained by different authorities according to the type of road it is and which home nation it is in:
|Local roads and some smaller A roads
|Motorways and major A roads
|Transport for London
Can I claim for pothole damage on my car insurance?
If you have comprehensive car insurance, you should be able to claim for pothole damage, unless your policy explicitly says you can’t. Unfortunately, if you only have third party coverage or TPFT (third party, fire and theft) you won’t be able to make a claim.
If you do have comprehensive cover and want to make a claim, remember that you’ll also need to pay your excess. Making a claim can also affect your no claims bonus. This could then lead to an increase in your premium when you come to renew. With all this in mind, it could be more cost effective to pay for repairs yourself rather than claim on your policy.
How do I claim for pothole damage from the council?
If you can’t make a claim on your policy (or don’t want to), you can make a claim for damages from the authority that is meant to maintain the road.
For the majority of potholes in England, that will mean contacting the local council where the pothole is located (not necessarily the one for where you live).
To support your claim and increase your chances of success, it’s a good idea to:
Prepare evidence of the pothole
This includes taking photos and measurements if you can. Needless to say, you shouldn’t stop traffic to do this or risk anyone’s safety and you definitely must not stop on the motorway to gather evidence.
If you can, it’s recommended that you take photos which can help pinpoint exactly where the pothole is. For example, if you can get road signs in the photo, that can help immensely.
Report the pothole to the relevant authority
Most authorities will allow you to do this online. If you notice that the pothole has been previously reported, this could also help strengthen your claim, especially if the previous report was some time ago and nothing has yet been done.
Get repair quotes
If you can, take photos of the damage caused and ask for repair quotes. You should also ask the mechanic to state in writing that repairs are needed because of pothole damage.
Make a claim to the relevant council or authority
When you have all your evidence and quote for repairs, you should approach the council (or the authority responsible). Making a claim for pothole damage is relatively simple and most authorities will have a pothole claim form you can fill in (usually available on their websites).
How likely are councils to pay for pothole damage?
Research by What Car? found that between 2018 and 2021, councils had paid motorists more than £12 million in compensation for pothole damage. Just over one quarter (26%) of all claims were successful with the average payout totalling £347.
So, while claiming against the relevant authority might seem like a chore, it could be well worth pursuing. Particularly if you don’t want to risk reducing your no claims bonus.
What happens if the council rejects my claim for pothole damage?
If your claim is unsuccessful, you can appeal, especially if you think your claim has been unfairly rejected.
To strengthen your case, you could check when the council or authority last inspected or repaired the road in question. You can then cross check this information against any policies they may have about road maintenance.
If you find that the authority has failed to manage their roads according to their own policies, this can help support your claim.
The easiest way to find out when the roads were last inspected is to make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. FOI requests are typically free, and councils will usually have a form you can download from their website.
What happens if pothole damage happens on private land?
If you’re going to an event on private land and a pothole damages your car, you can make a claim against the landowner. They should have public liability insurance to cover the cost of damage to your property.
Why do potholes exist?
Potholes are chiefly caused by bad weather as water seeps into cracks in the road. As the weather changes, the water can freeze or melt causing the cracks to widen. It’s no surprise to learn that resulting damage is often worse on poorly maintained roads.
To make matters confusing, there’s no clear definition of what a pothole actually is and authorities tend to use their own descriptions and measurements. According to the on_current="true" url="https://www.rsta-uk.org/national-definition-of-pothole-called-for" title="RSTA" nofollow="true"Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) some councils require potholes to be at least 6cm deep while others work to a depth of just 3cm.
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Car insurance is there to cover the cost should the unexpected happen, which could include pothole damage. Whether it makes financial sense to make a claim on your policy depends on a number of factors, for example, how much your excess is and whether you’re worried about affecting your no claims bonus.