If your car is damaged by a pothole, you may see this as not being your fault. However, car insurance companies regard pothole claims as “at fault”, meaning you have to pay any excess charge and your no claims bonus will be impacted. As a result, many motorists find it’s not worth making a claim and instead opt to make a claim for damage from the authority responsible for maintaining the road.
Who to claim from
Depending on where they are located, motorways and A-roads are the responsibility of Highways England, Traffic Wales or Transport Scotland, or, in Northern Ireland, the Department for Infrastructure.
Most other roads are the responsibility of the relevant local council. Transport for London is in charge of ‘red routes’ in the English capital, while the Department for Infrastructure is responsible for all roads in Northern Ireland.
How to make a claim
If you go over a pothole and suspect that your car has been damaged, pull over as soon as it is safe to do so to check for damage in the bodywork and tyres. Some damage may not be obvious at first. If after going over a pothole, the car vibrates or pulls over to one side, there could be tyre, tracking or steering damage. Get this checked out at a garage or tyre specialist.
As soon as possible, take a picture of the offending pothole, measure its depth and width, and make a note of exactly where it is located. Report the pothole to the road authority.
Whether making a claim to the relevant body or your insurance company, submit as much evidence as you can, including a full report of the incident, photographs of the pothole and estimates for the repairs needed. It helps to put an everyday object such as a shoe next to the pothole when taking a picture, as this will indicate the size of the hole. If you have a dashboard camera, its footage can be used as evidence that the car experienced a significant impact.
You will also need to record the time and date and, if there are witnesses, take a statement from them. You need to prove that the damage was caused by the pothole and not road debris.
Will you receive a payout if the pothole wasn’t reported?
A local council or road authority may refuse the claim on the grounds that the pothole had not been reported or it was not picked up by an inspection of the road previous to the incident. You can ask to see the relevant road reports.
Payouts vary, with four-figure sums possible. A claim may not be paid out in full, but you can appeal if you feel that your time and effort is worth this. If the claim is rejected, you could contact a lawyer to see if an appeal or using the small-claims court has a chance of success.
If an authority rejects your claim, you can still make a claim on your comprehensive car insurance provided that the claim is larger than the excess and you are prepared to lose some of your no claims bonus.
Tackling the pothole problem
Potholes are a problem to all road users, with many appearing after severe icy weather. Although authorities have a duty to mend potholes, budget constraints can mean that it takes time to address all the reported potholes. Compensating motorists and the legal costs involved in settling claims costs authorities millions each year, so this is a good incentive for them to mend the holes, and it explains why the government continues to invest in tackling the issue.