How to claim for pothole damage
Hitting a pothole normally causes damage to a car's tyres, wheels or axles, and you'll often know immediately that something's wrong. According to Martin Lewis, of MoneySavingExpert.com, car damage claims for potholes tend to be around £300-£500 and many drivers who claim recoup the entire amount. It can be a lengthy process, so patience and persistence are required. While many cases are closed within 4 weeks, some take seven or eight months to resolve. It's best to claim promptly.
Officially the limit for retrospective claims is six years (five in Scotland) – because that's how far back you can go when filing for damages in the small claims court. However, if you hit a pothole years ago and didn't gather evidence, it's unlikely you'll be able to claim for damage now. To claim for the damage, you'll have to prove the pothole caused it — that the repairs you're having to pay for were specifically caused by your impact with the pothole. Your mechanic should be able to put this in writing for you. If your vehicle already had a problem, and the pothole made it worse, you can still claim but you won't get the full repair costs back.
What is a pothole?
Potholes are usually caused by water seeping down into the road surface, then freezing and creating gaps that widen up into gaping holes in the road.
According to many councils, to count as a pothole the hole must be at least 4cm deep. If the one you hit wasn't that deep you can still claim, but it could be tougher to win compensation. If your car has been damaged by a problem in the road which isn't a pothole – if you've hit a piece of loose pavement, for instance – you may still be able to claim. Your chances depend on how the road defect is categorised by the authority responsible. If your vehicle is damaged by a pothole on a private road, for example in a supermarket car park, the same legal principle applies – the private company in question has a legal duty to keep the road safe. If you hit a pothole while on a bike the same rules and processes apply.
Isn’t it easier to claim on insurance?
There's no doubt that claiming on car insurance is an easier process than claiming compensation from those responsible for maintaining the road. But of course, you need to factor in your excess and the effect on any no-claims bonus you have. By the way, you can't claim twice — if you claim on your car insurance, there's no point claiming compensation as well. If you did, according to a legal technicality anything you got from the responsible authority would be paid to your insurer. Insurers say that drivers should notify them of pothole damage immediately, regardless of whether they intend to claim. You'll then usually have around five or six months before you have to file an insurance claim, which gives you time to see if a claim to the responsible authority will work first.
Where to claim
Different authorities are responsible for maintaining certain types of road, so you'll need to check who to contact. A full list can be found on the Department of Transport’s website. Claims can normally be filed online direct with the company, or by requesting a claims form to be sent to you.By reporting the problem with the road, you are also alerting other drivers and bringing attention to the required repair, regardless of whether you are successful in claiming compensation.
Most A-roads and motorways - Check if Highways England manages the road your car was damaged on. Highways England Telephone: 0300 123 5000. Email: email@example.com
Other English roads - Contact the local council that manages the road. You can see which council manages the road if you know the postcode where your vehicle was damaged. London red routes - Check if the road is a red route. If it is, contact Transport for London about compensation. Transport for London customer services. Telephone: 0343 222 1234.
Most A-roads and motorways (‘trunk roads’) - Report the problem to Traffic Scotland. Traffic Scotland Telephone: 0800 028 1414. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Scottish roads - Contact the local council that manages the road to report the problem.
Most A-roads and motorways (‘trunk roads’) - Check if Traffic Wales manages the road your car was damaged on. Traffic Wales Telephone: 0300 123 1213. Email: email@example.com
Other Welsh roads - Contact the local council that manages the road to report the problem.
Apply online to the Department for Infrastructure to claim compensation for all types of roads