How to make a claim for pothole damage

Find out how to report potholes and how to make a claim if you are injured or suffer damage to your car or property because of them.

Alice Lloyd

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Potholes are a major issue on UK roads. They can damage your car's wheels, tyres, suspension and bodywork.

They can also skew your steering and water-filled potholes can affect catalytic converters.

Repairing the damage can be expensive and - if you claim on your car insurance - your premium might go up.

Key points

  • You should report a dangerous pothole, whether you intend to make a claim or not
  • You don’t have to make a claim from your car insurance, you can claim from the local council or Highway Agency
  • Gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim and check to see if the pothole had been previously reported

What causes potholes?

Potholes begin to form when water gets into the road's foundation from the cracks in the surface tarmac.

It freezes and expands in cold weather. When the temperature rises again the ice melts, leaving a void beneath the road surface that later collapses under the weight of traffic.

How to claim for pothole damage from the council

Collect evidence

If you hit a pothole, make sure you gather evidence to help support any future claims.

  • Take pictures at the scene, safely
  • Note the time of the incident
  • Identify the pothole and its location on the road
  • Measure the pothole if you can. If it's not safe, estimate instead
  • Are there any other details you can gather? For example; witnesses, how busy the road is, the speed limit or any features nearby
  • Keep receipts for anything you paid for as a result of the incident, as well as copies of all your correspondence

Even if you don’t intend on making a claim, you should still report the relevant authority.

Find out who is responsible for the road

Find which body is responsible for the culprit pothole by searching for the road using its postcode at Gov.uk.

Once you know who is responsible, you can use a Freedom of Information Act request to find out the history of the road’s repairs.

You’ll also be able to find out if the pothole had been previously reported by other road users.

If you can show that the council knew about the pothole and did nothing about it within a reasonable period, you have a stronger chance of making a successful claim.

Submit your claim

Once you know who is responsible for the road and whether they've upheld their duty to maintain it or not, you can decide whether you want to make a claim.

You can request a claim form from the relevant authority who should post one out to you. These are often called 'quick claims' and are the fastest method of reclaiming from councils.

Beware, however, this could still take a while and there is no guarantee your claim will be successful.

If the council rejects your claim, but you think you still want to pursue it, you can take them to small claims court.

Some councils prefer to pay a settlement figure, either partial or full, to avoid court fees.

Not all do, so make sure you have a strong case with irrefutable evidence that authorities neglected to repair the road within a reasonable timeframe. If your case is unsuccessful, you'll have pay legal fees if you lose. Get legal advice before you pursue the case through the small claims court.

How much you can claim depends on how damaged your car is - you may get some or all of the repair costs back from the council.

Claim through your car insurance

If your claim is rejected by the courts and the council, you may still be able to claim through your car insurance. You can’t claim from your insurer if your claim with the council is a success.

Claiming for pothole damage on your car insurance

You can claim for pothole damage on your car insurance, but it might be more expensive than the cost of repairs.

Weigh up:

  • How your no claims bonus will be affected if you make a claim
  • If making a claim would increase your premium in the long run
  • How much the compulsory and voluntary excess will cost in the short-term

If you’re injured after colliding with a pothole check your car insurance for personal injury cover, and speak to your insurer.

Whether you want to make a claim or not, you need to tell your insurer about the damage.

If your claim with the local authority takes a long time, or is unsuccessful, your insurer will then have a record of the damage and you can claim through them instead.

According to the 2019 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, maintaining the surface of roads helps to fight the causes of potholes, and they should be tackled once every 10 to 20 years. In England and Wales, all classes of roads are resurfaced once every 67 years.

Potholes on private roads

You may find potholes on new housing estates, supermarket car parks or along private driveways. In these cases, the private road owner is legally responsible for maintaining the roads.

The road owner might have public liability insurance, which you could claim against if the road was badly maintained. If they don’t, you’ll have to claim off your own insurance.

You’ll still need to prove that the damage occurred on that road, so collect evidence and contact your insurer.

How do I report potholes?

The local councils and the Highways Agency are responsible for trunk roads and motorways.

Although councils have their own monitoring and repair schedule, they can't fulfil their duty to fix potholes if they don't know about them.

Your first port of call is usually Gov.uk. Enter the postcode for the pothole’s location and they’ll tell you which local council is responsible for that piece of road and will offer links to their website.

You may also want to see the Highways Agency's advice on potholes or visit their contact page.

Alternatively, there are several private websites that can help you in the reporting process.

The cycling-focused website Fill That Hole for example, asks you to report road problems using an online map – they’ll contact the right authority for you.

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