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How to make pothole claims

Lydia Fitzsimons
Lydia Fitzsimons
  | Edited by Tamires Criscio
Updated 30th June 2021

If you hit a pothole, you could damage your vehicle’s tyres, wheels, and steering alignment. If your car is damaged, you can make a pothole damage claim. In this guide, Latest Deals will explain how to claim for pothole damage, what to do if your claim is rejected, and answer any need-to-know questions.

What is a pothole claim?

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If a pothole damages your vehicle, you may be able to claim back the cost of repairs from the authority responsible for maintaining the road. 

Can I claim for pothole damage?

You can make a pothole claim if you can prove that the pothole caused damage to your car and you gather evidence to support your claim. 

Things you need to know about pothole claims

1. You’re not guaranteed to be successful with your claim

Though plenty of people claim successfully for pothole damage, there is no guarantee your claim will be successful. Many claims are rejected. Usually councils have a statutory defense under Section 58 of the Highways Act (1980). If they can prove they took reasonable steps to maintain the road and make it non-hazardous for traffic, they won’t be held responsible.

2. Be prepared to negotiate

If your claim is successful, the authority might offer to cover any repair costs on your vehicle. You should be prepared to negotiate. If you’ve had to pay for alternative travel arrangements keep the receipts and you may be able to claim the money back for this too.

3. Responsible authorities will only pay if you can prove negligence

You need to prove that the authority maintaining the road has failed in their duty and is responsible for covering the cost of any damage. Keep reading to learn how to gather your evidence.

4. Evidence is key

If you’re planning on claiming for pothole damage, you need to gather evidence to support your claim. If you don’t have evidence to support your claim, it likely won’t be successful.

How to make a pothole claim?

1. Gather evidence

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You need to gather evidence to prove that the pothole was responsible for the damage to your vehicle. You should gather key pieces of evidence and add them to your claim to give it the best chance of success.

  • Photo Evidence

If it is safe to do so, check your car for visible signs of damage. 

This includes the wheels, tyres, and any other signs of damage. You need to take photographs and notes to record these impairments.

You should also take photographs of the pothole if you can do it safely. 

Try and take as many pictures as you can. Make sure you include close-up photos of the pothole itself and mid-range photos illustrating its position in the road. Also, photograph any identifying marks close by to help establish its location, for example, a road sign or nearby landmarks. 

  • Take Notes

It’s important to make detailed notes about the incident. You should note exactly where the pothole is located (for example, which road, where on the road). Also, make a note of any visible damage to the vehicle. This is an opportunity to list anything about the pothole’s location that makes it particularly dangerous, for example, if it’s on a bend. Finally, make sure you note exactly when the incident took place (date and time). 

If there’s anything else you can think of, make a note of it! It’s always better to have more information when you claim to give you the best chance of success.

  • Witness

If someone saw the incident and they’re happy to vouch for it, ask them to write down their version of events. It would be helpful if they included details such as whether the driver could have seen the pothole, and so on. 

2. Report the pothole

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Potholes are dangerous to road users and can cause drivers to lose control or even crash if they hit one at speed. So, after you have gathered your evidence, you should report the pothole to the authority responsible for maintaining the road. 

As well as protecting other road users, it may also help your claim as it demonstrates that you are willing to do your civic duty. Keep in mind that this is not your claim. It’s another step in the process to make sure your claim is as complete as possible.

Latest Deals has created a table to help you find out who handles the road your pothole was on. This is who you should contact to report the pothole.

Who to contact:

* Check the phone charges before calling.

3. Repair the damage

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If you’re trying to reclaim the cost of repairs to your car, you’re going to need proof of the repairs. So, before submitting your claim, you should repair the damage to your car. 

  • Shop around and get different quotes for the repairs
  • Keep a copy of all quotes and receipts to support your claim
  • Make sure the receipt is itemised, and ask the mechanic to list the reason for the damage, in this case, a pothole

4. Make a fast claim 

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Now that you have gathered all your evidence, reported the pothole, and repaired your car, you’re ready to claim for pothole damage. 

There are two ways to make a claim. One is a fast claim, and the other is a full claim. A fast claim is the quickest and most straightforward way to claim for pothole damage, so this should be your first step. If your fast claim is rejected, you can make a full claim.

You should have found out which authority is responsible for the road the pothole is located on when you reported it. 

You should be able to make a fast claim for pothole damage from the council, Highways England, Transport for London, the Department for Infrastructure (Dfl), Amey and Bear Scotland. If you can’t for some reason (some councils have different systems, for example), don’t worry! You can make a full claim.

Council pothole claim

If the pothole incident happened on a road that is not an A road, motorway, or London red route, you need to make a council pothole claim.

You can find out which council is responsible for the road the incident happened on here: Gov.uk

  • Click the link above and enter the postcode where the incident happened. You will then see a link to the responsible council’s website. Click this, and you’ll be taken to the council’s website, where you can start your fast claim.
  • This involves filling in an online form. You’ll be asked for the exact location, date and time, the cost of repairs, and other details about the incident. Try and provide lots of detail here to make your claim as complete as possible. You will also need to fill in your contact details.
  • Once you have completed the form, the council will send you an email asking for any other evidence, for example, photos. 

Highways England pothole claim

If you hit a pothole on a motorway or A road, you need to make a Highways England pothole claim.

  • As mentioned before, you need first to report the pothole before making your claim. When you report the pothole with Highways England, they should send you a fast claim online form: You can use this link
  • If they don’t, you can ring them on 0300 123 5000, or email them at info@highwaysengland.co.uk

Transport for London pothole claim

If you hit a pothole on a London red route, you need to make a Transport for London pothole claim.

After you submit your fast claim, the relevant authority will decide whether to reject your claim or accept it. If you win your claim, you will be refunded the cost of the repairs. The relevant authority may offer partial costs, and it’s worth accepting this, as making a full claim is a much more timely and complicated process. 

Traffic Scotland pothole claim

If you hit a pothole on a motorway or A road in Scotland, there are three agencies that may hold responsibility. 

  • South-west Scotland: Amey is the responsible authority. When you report the pothole to them, you can select that you want to receive a claims form. If you don’t receive one, you can call them on: 0800 521 660
  • North-east, north-west and south-east Scotland: Bear Scotland is the responsible authority, and they should send you a form when you report the pothole. If they do not do this, you can call them on: 0800 028 1414

Dfl pothole claim

If you are claiming for pothole damage in Northern Ireland, the responsible authority is the Dfi.

  • Go to the Dfi website here and you can download the form directly and make your fast claim.

If your pothole damage fast claim is rejected, you can make a full claim

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What happens if my pothole claim is rejected?

If your fast pothole claim is rejected, you can make a full claim.

To make a full claim, you need to get the road’s inspection history and the responsible authority’s repair policy. Then, you need to prove that the authority was negligent in following and maintaining these procedures. 

Making a full claim can be a long-winded process, so Latest Deals has broken it down step by step to make it easier.

Make a full claim

1. Get the road’s inspection history and repair policy by making an FOI request

To give your claim a better chance of success, you’re going to need the road’s inspection history and the repair policy. If the authority has not been meeting the policy, your claim stands a good chance of success.

You can use the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) to request this information from the authority. This act enables you to request and view data from public sector bodies. They are legally required to give it to you.

You need to make an FOI request, and for two pieces of information:

  • The responsible authority’s inspection history
  • The responsible authority’s policy for road maintenance

The easiest way to make an FOI request is by emailing the relevant authority. All you need to do is say that you’re making an FOI request for the two pieces of information. Legally, the authority has 20 days to respond to your request.

It’s important to note that making FOI requests can put real pressure on councils and public sector bodies. You should only request one if you could not use a fast claim or your fast claim was rejected.

2. Check if the responsible authority met the terms of their policy

Once you have received the information from the FOI request, you need to go through it carefully. 

First, check the inspection logs and be on the lookout for these key things:

  • How were the inspections carried out? By foot or in a vehicle? If it was in a vehicle, the pothole might not have been visible.
  • If the inspection was carried out in a vehicle, was the driver the only inspector? Or was there an inspector and a driver?
  • Does the road have a history of issues? If so, were more checks carried out?

Then, check to see if the pothole had previously been reported. If it had been, check these key things:

  • How did the authority categorise the risk the pothole caused?
  • How long did it take the authority to fix it?
  • Was it fixed to a standard that made it no longer a hazard?
  • If the authority made no repairs, how long had they known about it without taking action

3. Check the responsible authority’s policy meets national standards

In your FOI request, you should have also requested the responsible authority’s policy for road maintenance. When you receive this, you should check for two things:

  • Has the responsible authority met the terms of their policy for road maintenance?
  • Does their policy for road maintenance meet national standards? This only applies to councils

If the terms of their road maintenance policy have not been met, you can argue they have been negligent. Again, this can help your case. 

You can find details on national standards here.

You’re looking for ways the authority has not met the terms of their policy or practices that don’t meet national standards (for councils). If, for example, the authority didn’t check the road your pothole was on as often as it should have, add it to your claim. Or, if the pothole had already been reported, and the authority didn’t repair it as quickly as they should have, add it to your claim. 

4. Send a letter with all the information you have gathered; this is your full pothole claim 

All the information you have gathered from the steps above will help strengthen your pothole damage claim. Try and find as many discrepancies with the authority’s inspection logs and policy for road maintenance as possible. This will give your claim a better chance of success.

You can now make a full claim for pothole damage. To do this, you should send a pothole claim letter to the responsible authority.

In the letter, you need to state the cost of the repairs you’re owed from the damage caused by the pothole. You need to explain why they have been negligent and detail all the evidence you have gathered to support your claim. You’re arguing that the authority failed to meet its road maintenance policy or the national standard. 

Here is a checklist of what you need to include:

  • All the evidence you gathered for your fast claim, including photos, notes, and any eyewitnesses
  • Any receipts and quotes you got when you repaired the vehicle. Remember to include the itemised receipt with the cause of the damage: the pothole
  • Your list of discrepancies between what the authority should have done and what they did, based on their road maintenance policy and repair logs

How long should I wait for an answer? 

After you submit your claim, you’ll get a confirmation recognising it. It should take around a month before you hear back from the authority with their decision. The authority may pass your claim on to a firm that handles these cases on their behalf. In this case, your claim could take a couple of months.

Take it to the small claims court

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If you win your full claim, either you will get back the cost of the repairs for the pothole damage, or you’ll get a partial offer to cover some of the damage costs. You should be willing to compromise, as taking the matter further can be costly, with no guarantee of success.

If your pothole damage claim is rejected, your final option is to take your claim to the small claims court. The Motor Ombudsman does not handle pothole claims, so the small claims court is your last resort.

It’s important to know that you have the right to appeal your rejected claim at the small claims court. But, there are fees if you lose, so only proceed with this if you are confident you have a case. Read more about how the small claims court works here

FAQs

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What do you think of this?
Missfionawilson
Missfionawilson3 weeks ago

Well done for laying this out in such a way its so easy to absorb, thank you so much, take care. Fiona.

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lydiafitzsimons
lydiafitzsimons
LD Team
a week ago

No problem, I'm glad you found it helpful 🙂

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