Motorists spent £100m last year repairing damage caused by potholes, according to figures from the RAC, and with councils struggling to keep up with the issue, it’s important to know just what to do if your car or motorcycle falls victim to one of the hellish holes.
If you hit a deep pothole at a low speed, you can damage your tyres, wheels and steering alignment but if you’re travelling at high speed, it can severely damage your vehicle and you also run the risk of losing control of your car or van and colliding with another vehicle, the kerb or roadside objects.
To claim, or not to claim? That is the question. With around two-thirds of UK motorists encountering between one and five potholes every day, it’s important to know what to do if you think you might need to make a damages claim to a local authority due to pothole damage.
Adrian Flux Insurance Services offers advice to those who have fallen foul of potholes.
Report the damage:
Whether or not you claim for damage, report the pothole to your local Highway Authority so it can make repairs and prevent further incidents. This also covers other drivers who might fall foul of any potholes that have been reported, but not repaired. Authorities have a statutory defence: they can’t be held liable for a defect they didn’t know about or that wasn’t picked up by their inspections. Councils have a register of road problems including potholes and schedules for repair – you may also be able to download a claim form from the website. Find further information at www.potholes.co.uk and find contact details for your local authority on gov.uk.
Know your pothole:
If you are considering a claim, you need evidence. Take photographs of the pothole and the surrounding area (for example, if it is after a blind corner – although be careful on the road) and note down its location, the road name, the road direction and the size and depth of the pothole. If you need to illustrate depth, use a familiar object such as a drinks can inside the hole to show how deep it is in a photograph and if you don’t have a tape measure, use a book or a shoe as a guide and make your calculations at home. Make sure you gather contact details for any witnesses who saw the incident. Remember that you need to identify the exact pothole you hit, so make sure your photograph and notes make it clear.
If you need immediate repairs, try to get several quotes and keep them with invoices and receipts to support your claim.
Before you claim:
Ask the council responsible for the road where the damage occurred to let you know the dates of safety inspections undertaken on the carriageway in the two years preceding your incident and to let you know if any defects were recorded. Ask how inspections are carried out, how the council decides whether a pothole requires attention, details of any outstanding complaints and the time period between the identification of a problem pothole and its repair. Ask for a reply within 20 working days, in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. If no reply is received, re-send your list of questions and ask for a reply within 10 days. If no reply is received, continue to your claim.
Making a claim:
Include a full description of how the damage to your vehicle was caused, when and where the accident happened, photographs, your notes and repair quotes/invoices. The council is likely to defend the claim under section 58 of the Highways Act by claiming it has a reasonable system of repair – if after a second attempt the answer is still ‘no’, consider taking the matter to court. Bear in mind that if you use a solicitor, you will have to pay them whether you win, lose or draw your case.
If you are made an offer – consider it. Court proceedings can be time-consuming and costly.