A recent study conducted by the RAC Foundation confirmed that UK motorists have made at least 31,483 claims against councils for vehicle damage caused by poor road conditions in the last financial year. When you break it down, this equals out to be about one pothole claim every 17 minutes in 2015 and 2016. In total, the number of pothole claims made is up 9% from the previous year.
What’s the main cause of the increase of pothole-related claims? Poor road conditions and maintenance seem to be the common answer. According to the government’s own recent assessment, there is a road maintenance backlog of up to £8.6 billion. However, in the latest annual ALARM survey (commissioned by the Asphalt Industry Alliance) of local authority highways departments the backlog is as high as £11.6 billion and could take up to 14 years to fix.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, explained, “These figures are symptomatic of the inadequate funding available for local road maintenance. Year in, year out, the backlog of work on local roads is estimated to run to several billion pounds.”
Because of the excessive backlogs in road maintenance, the condition of UK roads has deteriorated severely – and motorists now have to deal with the consequences.
In England, Hampshire has seen the most pothole related claims in the past year, with 1,952 claims. Surrey follows behind with 1,412 claims and Hertfordshire in a close third with 1,369. For Scotland, Glasgow takes the top with 794 pothole claims, and Edinburgh in a close second with 514. Lastly, Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan are at the top for pothole related claims in Wales, with 237 and 173 respectively. The most common types of damage to cars are punctures, wrecked wheels and broken axles.
Unfortunately, however, councils in England, Wales and Scotland on average only pay out one in four claims that are reported. The average pay-out hovers around only £306, which is substantially less than the £432 average pothole claim. But this doesn’t come as a surprise for many motorists. Earlier this year Admiral reported that of the almost 29,000 drivers who lodged complaints against councils for pothole damages, only 25% of the claims were upheld.
As frustrating as it may seem, there isn’t a guarantee that you will be able to claim any money back if you car is damaged on a British road, but it’s certainly worth a try. Here’s how you can seek out claim compensation for pothole damage:
1. Collect your evidence – Write down the pothole’s location, the time and date you encountered it and take a photo of it if you can do so safely. Next take your car to a garage for the damage evaluation and ask the mechanic for a hand-written assessment as you’ll need this when making your case.
2. Determine who cares for the road – The next step is to work out who maintains the road; different authorities are responsible for maintaining certain types of roads. Here’s a full list of which local councils are in charge of what in England, Scotland and Wales.
3. Reporting it – Ask if the relevant body has a template you can fill in to file a report. Provide as much information as possible, and don’t forget the mechanics assessment, photos and what the repair costs are.
4. If you’re given an offer, does it cover your costs? Don’t be afraid to be persistent and go back to the council. You should be able to seek fair compensation if the council or Highways Agency has failed in its duty to keep the road in a good state of repair.
5. Was your offer rejected? If you think your claim has been wrongly rejected you can still seek legal advice or make a case through the small claims court. But remember, this could be a time-consuming process and is probably only worthwhile if the repair bill is a considerable amount.
Don't forget, you can also claim through your insurance if you have comprehensive cover, but be mindful that it's worth considering the cost of the damage and your excess payments, as well as if the claim will affect your No Claims Bonus.