How to claim for pothole damage

Last updated by mustard.co.uk on May 13th, 2021

Potholes are a familiar and unwelcome sight on our roads. In fact, there are so many it’s estimated it would take 11 years and more than £11 billion to repair all our damaged roads. So, if your car’s fallen victim and needs expensive repairs, here’s how to recoup your costs and make a claim for pothole damage.

What is a pothole?

Potholes happen when water seeps into the road surface. This causes the road to expand and contract as the water freezes and melts due to temperature changes. 

But a pothole isn’t just any sized hole in the road. Generally speaking, to be recognised as a pothole, it will need to be at least 40mm in depth and around 30mm in width. Bear in mind that these measurements are just a guide, those responsible for filling in potholes may have different guidelines. 

Who is responsible for pothole repairs?

Road maintenance is down to different organisations depending on where and the type of road it is.  

For motorways and A roads, responsibility lies with:

In Northern Ireland, the Department for Infrastructure is also responsible for all other roads.

All other roads in England, Wales and Scotland are maintained by the appropriate county council, which you can find at:

In London, red routes are the responsibility of Transport for London.  

To report a pothole, you should contact each relevant organisation. There are also sites like FixMyStreet which some councils use to highlight issues. 

How do I make a claim for pothole damage to my car?

Sometimes, there’s not a lot you can do to avoid potholes in the road but some are worse than others which can lead to expensive repairs. If you decide to make a pothole claim, here’s what you’ll need to do:

1) Gather evidence

If you can, take photos of the pothole. Even better is if you can show measurements or scale. It’s also worth making a note of the date, time, and weather conditions. 

You should also document the damage done to the car, including photos and an account of the damage according to a mechanic. Keep all your receipts for repair work too. 

2) Report the pothole

Report the pothole to the organisation with responsibility for road maintenance. Most organisations will have a ‘report it’ tool that will enable you to do this in just a few minutes. You should report the pothole whether or not you decide to make a claim. 

3) Make your pothole claim

Check to see whether the relevant organisation has a claims procedure. If there is, you should follow the steps set out, making sure you attach your evidence. 

If there’s no particular claims process, you should put your claim in writing. Before you send it off, check you’ve included: 

  • A clear description of the incident including the day, date and weather conditions. 
  • The pothole’s location.
  • Photo evidence showing damage to your car.
  • Any reports by the repair garage, along with copies of all the receipts. 
  • Any appropriate witness accounts that can support your claim. 

What happens after I make a claim for pothole damage?

After you’ve submitted your claim, there are three possible outcomes:

  • The organisation agrees to pay for the damage in full. If so, you’ll usually receive a cheque. 
  • The organisation agrees to a partial refund. 
  • Your claim is rejected.

If you’re offered a partial refund, you don’t have to accept it, but consider the time, money and stress of pursuing your claim. Similarly, if your claim is rejected, there’s nothing to stop you from taking it further. You can do this by taking your claim to the small claims court. 

Again, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of whether the potential outcome is worth the cost of continuing with your pothole claim.

If repairs to your car were particularly expensive but you didn’t want to pursue the case with your council, you could also make a claim on your insurance if you have comprehensive cover. Remember that if you do this, it’s likely to be classed as a ‘fault’ claim which could affect your no claims bonus and mean you pay more for future car insurance. 

Can I claim off the council for pothole damage?

If your council is the organisation responsible for road maintenance in your area, then yes, you can make a claim. Whether your claim will be successful, is another matter entirely. 

When you make a claim, the decision to compensate you, is at your council’s discretion. In some cases, it’s not enough to show evidence of the pothole and the damage it’s caused. You may also be expected to show proof that the council neglected its duty to maintain the road, which can be harder to prove.

If your initial claim was rejected but you want to appeal it, you can ask your council for a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to seek evidence that they neglected their responsibility for road maintenance. These forms can be found on your council’s website and questions you could ask, include:

  • How often the council checks roads for damage.
  • How road damage is assessed — by a team or an individual (who could miss a pothole).
  • Whether the pothole had been previously reported.
  • If it had been reported, what had been done about it?

By law, organisations must respond to your FOI request within 20 days. If your request is likely to take longer than 20 days to answer, they’ll have to tell you this in the meantime. 

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