Potholes have become problematic on our roads and can cause serious damage to vehicles. Read on to find out who to contact and how to claim if you hit a pothole.
1 Collect pothole evidence
Potholes usually appear in the winter months and early spring, as the mix of cold and warmer temperatures causes rain water on the road to expand and contract. But, utility works can also create cracks in the surface of roads.
Potholes can cause serious damage to vehicles, so the first thing to do if you hit a pothole is to document what’s happened, as well as any damage.
A good way to do this is to photograph the pothole, showing its depth if you're able to by including something like a road sign or lamppost to show scale. You should also photograph any damage to your vehicle or bike.
Take note of the road name and where on the road the pothole is.
It’s a good idea to document any factors that may make the pothole a particular risk, for example, if it’s in the middle of a junction.
2 Where to report a pothole
All councils allow you to report potholes via their websites. When you make a report, include all the supporting evidence you can.
To find out which council maintains the road, you can enter the road name, town or postcode on the Directgov website.
Alternatively, the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC), a national cycling charity, has a website called Fill That Hole.
This allows you to identify the location of a pothole using Google Maps or via GPS if you download the free iPhone or Android app.
The charity will then report the pothole on your behalf. If the incident happens on a motorway or A-road, you will need to contact the Highways Agency.
- Collect all the evidence you can if you hit a pothole, including making a note of exactly where the pothole is, and taking photos showing the depth of the pothole and any damage caused when you hit it.
- Keep all receipts relating to any repair work you've undertaken to fix any damage to your vehicle or bicycle caused by a pothole.
3 Can I claim compensation?
Your chance of claiming compensation often depends on whether a pothole has already been reported.
Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 provides councils with a statutory defence if they can show that reasonable care was taken to secure the road and that it wasn’t dangerous to traffic.
In other words, if the local authority knew about the pothole but hasn’t repaired it, or hasn’t followed road maintenance guidelines, you may be able to claim compensation.
4 How do I make a claim?
Before making a claim, it’s a good idea to get a quote to fix any damage, or if you have repair work done, make sure you keep your receipts.
Before making a claim, it might be worth calling the council or the Highways Agency responsible for maintaining the road to check whether they will reimburse you if you undertake repair work.
They may have a specific claims protocol which requires you to provide certain information prior to making a claim.
The more supporting evidence you can provide, including copies of any receipts, the easier making your claim will be.
5 Don’t be afraid of negotiating
If the council or relevant authority makes an offer, you may be able to negotiate.
While you can claim the cost of car repairs, you won’t necessarily be compensated for additional travel expenses or the inconvenience caused.
However, if you had to pay for alternative transport while your damaged vehicle was being repaired and have kept receipts, for example, you may be able to claim compensation for this too.
6 If your claim is rejected
If your claim is rejected, you can use the small claims court to pursue your claim.
However, we suggest you seek legal advice first, as you may be liable for costs if you lose the case.
Which? Legal Service can provide you with tailored 1-2-1 advice on what you should do in such a situation.