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 and people if an accident arises as a result of one, so the first thing to do before reporting the pothole is to document what’s happened and any damage caused.
A good way to do this is to photograph the pothole, showing its depth if you're able to by including something such as a road sign or lamppost to show scale.
You should also photograph any damage to your vehicle or bike.
Try to collect your photographic evidence on the day the you ran over the pothole, if you can.
It's worth noting that if you try to make a claim before collecting photographic evidence of the pothole, you may find it difficult to get pothole compensation if the council has since repaired the pothole.
Document important details
In addition to taking photos, document the road name and where on the road the pothole is.
It’s also 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.
Cyclist pothole claims
If you're a cyclist looking to claim for property damage or personal injury caused by a pothole in the road, you should go through the same pothole reporting process as other road users.
If you're pursuing a claim for personal injury or damage to your bike, it's vital you collect photographic evidence of the damage caused and the pothole in the road.
2 Report the pothole
All councils allow you to report potholes via their websites. Include all the supporting evidence you can when reporting a pothole.
To find out which council maintains the road, you can enter the road name, town or postcode on the Directgov website.
Alternatively, Cycling UK, a national cycling charity, has a website called Fill That Hole you could use to report a pothole.
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.
Report it now, or miss out later
Your chance of claiming compensation for damage to your car, bike or other vehicle often depends on whether a pothole has already been reported.
And as it can be difficult to prove that the local or highway authority should have fixed the known hazard, it is important for all road users - including cyclists - to report any potholes they see in the road that could be a hazard to them or others.
3 Make a pothole damage claim
Before making a claim for pothole damage to your vehicle, it’s a good idea to get a quote to fix any damage.
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 that requires you to provide certain information prior to making a claim.
If you need to have repair work done urgently, make sure you keep your receipts.
The more supporting evidence you can provide, including copies of any receipts, the easier making your claim will be.
Can my pothole compensation claim be rejected?
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 it wasn’t dangerous to traffic.
This means highway and local authorities can often defend claims if they weren't aware of the pothole or if they had in place a reasonable system of maintaining and inspecting the road.
For example, if the pothole appeared recently after the authority's last inspection and no one had yet reported it as a hazard, you may struggle with your pothole damage claim as the authority took reasonable care to check the road.
But, if the local authority knew about the pothole and didn't repair it, or if it didn't follow road maintenance guidelines, you have a stronger chance of claiming compensation for pothole damage and repairs.
4 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 repairs to your car, bike or other vehicle, you won’t necessarily be compensated for extra 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.
Step-by-step summary: How to claim for pothole damage
1. Collect all the evidence of pothole damage that you can. Make a note of exactly where the pothole is, and take photos showing the depth of the pothole and any damage caused when you hit it.
2. Report the pothole to your highways agency or local authority. Find out who is responsible for maintaining the road and report the pothole to them.
3. Keep all receipts for repair work. If you've had to get damage to your vehicle or bicycle caused by a pothole fixed urgently, keep all receipts. If you haven't needed to get the damage fixed urgently, get a quote.
4. Make a claim. Check the specific claims protocol of the authority as they may require you to provide certain information prior to making a claim.
5. Negotiate with the council. Don't be afraid to negotiate with the council on costs for repairs.
6. Appeal a rejected claim. If your claim is rejected, ask to see details of the council's road inspection reports to see whether the council did follow it as they should have. If it hasn't, appeal the decision.
7. Take your pothole claim to the small claims court. You can also use the small claims court to pursue your claim, but we suggest you seek legal advice first.
5 If your pothole claim is rejected
Councils have a formal system of road inspection and repair, which they have to follow.
This system covers how often roads are inspected, the size of damage to be repaired and how quickly repairs should be carried out.
So, if your claim is rejected, ask to see details of the council's road inspection reports to see if the council did follow it as they should have.
If after seeing these you think your claim being rejected was unfair, attempt a reclaim.
You can also 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.