Pothole claims

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:

  • Wheels
  • Tyres
  • Hub caps
  • Suspension
  • 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.

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.

Claiming for pothole damage from the council

You can claim from the local council or the Highways Agency.

Find which body is responsible for the culprit pothole by searching for the road using its postcode at Gov.uk. Then request the relevant claim form to fill in from the council.

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

To find out whether the pothole has been reported, you can check out websites that ask the public to report them, or make a formal request for information from the council or Highways Agency.

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

It’s an either/or situation – you can’t claim from the local council or Highways Agency and your car insurance, if your claim with the council is a success.

Making an insurance claim may affect the cost of your premium.

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.

Evidence to collect if you hit a pothole:

  • Take pictures at the scene, safely
  • Note the time of the incident
  • Identify the pothole, and its location in 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

What if my claim is rejected?

A rejected claim is not necessarily the end of the road.

If the insurer requests more information or evidence, supply it as fully as you can.

You may also want to request additional information about the outcome, for instance:

  • Recent safety inspections carried out on the road
  • Any problems that were highlighted
  • Whether faults were repaired
  • Whether the inspections met the required standards of frequency and quality

Ask the relevant body to reply within 20 working days in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. If that doesn't work, send a second letter alongside a copy of the first one and ask for a reply within 10 working days.

Be patient. But if you're getting nowhere, and you feel that you have a valid case, you could consider legal advice. Think carefully about the circumstances and weigh the potential gains against the cost of paying for a solicitor.

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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