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How to claim for pothole damage

Councils spend millions in compensation for pothole damage

Potholes cost Britain millions of pounds each year - with compensation claims on the rise this year following the Beast from the East.

A number of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests have revealed a snapshot of the cost of potholes around the country; a Cycling UK FOI shows local authorities spent at least £43.3 million in compensation claims and legal costs over the last five years.

While recent claims data from Highways England following an FOI request, reveals successful claims after incidents on England's motorways and major A roads more than doubled in the last financial year. 

Some 528 claims were upheld between April 2017 and April 2018, compared to 212 in 2016/17, and 187 in 2015/16. The Beast from the East has been blamed for the rise in pothole compensation claims. 

Other key findings in Cycling UK's data reveal:

  • Authorities on average incurred costs of £277,707.44
  • 670 cyclists and 30,893 drivers had their claims accepted
  • Motorists received on average £841.26 per successful claim
  • Cyclists received on average £10,963.15 per successful claim
  • £9,980,158.74 was spent on legal costs

Pesky potholes

Earlier this year, the AA estimated there had already been over 4,200 claims for pothole damage across the country, with an average repair bill of around £1,000. 

In 2016, the Government created a permanent pothole fund to repair roads with £250 million over five years. This is on top of almost £5billion committed to general roads maintenance.

Last month (October 2018), Chancellor Philip Hammond announced local councils in England are to get an extra £420m to tackle the growing number of potholes, as well as £25.5bn for Highways England for major road upgrades between 2020 and 2025 - largely funded by vehicle excise duty.

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.

Claiming for pothole damage on your car insurance 

If you do decide to claim through your car insurance, you won't be alone - Admiral deals with hundreds of pothole-related claims every month. And just like the rise in compensation claims to local councils in the past year, our claims team has also seen a rise. 

So far, in 2018, we've received 480 claims - the highest number we've had in the past seven years, and up from 293 in 2017. It's the second highest number pf pothole-related claims we've had in the past decade, beaten only by 513 claims in 2010.

From November to Boxing Day 2010, two spells of severe winter weather hit the UK - breaking records for most snowfall seen since the '60s. Temperatures struggled to rise above freezing during the days with northern Scotland registering a bitingly cold -20 degrees.  

As as well as causing havoc at airports - Heathrow and Gatwick both closed that winter - it's also safe to say the weather would've caused trouble on UK roads - particularly when it comes to potholes.