Our guide to claiming for compensation if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole.
Authorities Might Pay
If a pothole damages your car compensation might be paid by the relevant authority. After all, it is unreasonable that the road is in such poor condition that it breaks your vehicle or – in an extreme case - forces it off line and causes a collision. Who is accountable varies based on the type of road and its location. Highways England (formerly The Highways Agency) is responsible for motorways and some a-roads whereas smaller routes – such as residential roads - are maintained by the relevant local authority.
Check For Damage
Having struck a pothole it is important to check for damage as soon as it is safe. Top of the list is tyres. Look for imperfections such as bulges, tears and punctures. A significant impact could cause a tyre to deflate completely within moments. Inspect the wheels too; specifically for cracks/dents. Then consider tracking. Ensure that the vehicle drives in a straight line without pulling to one side, and that there are no vibrations through the steering.
Assuming there is a fault, the next step is to record any evidence that supports your claim. Note the name of the road, the direction of travel, the location of the pothole relative to (say) the kerb, its approximate dimensions and the date/time of impact. Take photographs too. For scale, place a familiar object such as a bottle of water or pen close to the hole. Remember to watch for traffic and not place yourself – or any fellow motorists – at risk.
Strengthen the case by requesting a written quote to repair the damage. Ask the mechanic to be specific. For example: “Replace near side front tyre and realign tracking following collision with pothole”. It is beneficial to have several quotes if practical and – of course – keep the invoice which confirms the work is complete.
Make The Claim
The procedure for claiming varies between authorities. Highways England, for example, asks to be contacted initially then only sends a form if the claim has a reasonable chance of success. Requested supporting evidence includes repair estimates or invoices, the vehicle's MOT and pictures of the pothole (if available). Alternatively, contact the relevant local authority for its procedures. Whatever body is responsible there is no guarantee of success. A common defence is that the authority did not know about the pothole prior to the incident – and therefore could not repair it - as it was not reported by the public or recorded via a condition survey.