Councils refuse three quarters of all pothole claims

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Almost 29,000 drivers lodged claims against councils across the country for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes, in the last financial year, but only 25% were upheld.

That’s the equivalent of about one claim lodged every 18 minutes over the 12 months according to recent research carried out by the RAC.

Facing no compensation for damaged cars, drivers will be pleased to know the Government has created a permanent pothole fund to start repairing roads with £250 million over the next five years. This is on top of almost £5billion committed to general roads maintenance.

In the recent Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne said: “We will be spending over £5 billion on roads maintenance this Parliament, and thanks to the incessant lobbying of my Honourable Friend for Northampton North, Britain now has a permanent pothole fund.”

Transport capital spending is set to rise by 50% but motoring groups say the pothole fund is a drop in the ocean.

Pesky potholes

Despite little spend on Britain’s roads over the past few years, the number of pothole compensation claims are down.

The 200 local highways authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, which responded to the RAC’s Freedom of Information request, dealt with 28,971 compensation claims in 2014/15.

This is compared to 48,945 claims in the previous financial year; one every 11 minutes.

However, the RAC says the councils refused the bulk of claims, agreeing to pay out in just 25% of cases. The average masks huge differences between councils - while Bury paid out in 88% of cases and Plymouth 86%, 21 councils paid out nothing at all.

More positive, however, is the average settlement amount for a successful claim was up from £286 to £294.

How to claim for pothole damage

As we’ve already mentioned, there is no guarantee that you will be able to claim any money back if you car is damaged on a British road, but we think it’s worth a try.

Here’s our step-by-step guide on claiming compensation for pothole damage:

  1. Collect your evidence – make a note of the pothole’s location, the time and date you hit it and get a photo if it’s safe to do so. Then take your car to a garage for the damage to be assessed and get the mechanic’s report in writing; you’ll need this when making your case
  2. Who’s responsible? The next step is to work out who maintains the road; different authorities are responsible for maintaining certain types of roads. For example local roads, B roads and smaller A roads are maintained by the local councils in England, Wales and Scotland. See Money Saving Expert’s full list of who’s in charge of what
  3. Reporting it – now you know who’s in charge you’ll need to lodge a formal complaint – see if the relevant body has a template you can fill in. Include as much information as possible, including the mechanic’s report and repair costs and any photos you’ve taken
  4. Got an offer? Is the council’s offer acceptable, does it cover your costs? If not, be persistent and go back to the council. You have a right to fair compensation if the council or Highways Agency has failed in its duty to keep the road in a good state of repair. You also stand a better chance of settlement if the pothole has already been reported and the council hasn’t acted
  5. Offer rejected? If you feel your claim has been unfairly rejected you can seek legal advice or make a case through the small claims court. However, this could be a time-consuming process and is likely to be worthwhile only if the repair bill is considerable
  6. Claiming through insurance – if you have comprehensive cover you can claim for pothole damage on your insurance however it’s worth considering the cost of the damage as well as your excess payments and if the claim will affect your No Claims Bonus

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