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Pothole claims rose by 40% in 2023 warns insurer

Car driving through water filled pothole


  • Pothole claims in 2023 were even higher (25%) than after Beast from the East in 2018
  • The number of pothole claims Admiral received more than doubled (138%) in the last eight years
  • More than a third (35%) of pothole-related claims take place between January and March – more than any other time of year
  • Admiral’sstep-by-step guideexplains how to claim compensation from those responsible for the upkeep of roads

Ahead of National Pothole Day on 15th January, the latest data from Admiral Car Insurance reveals that the number of pothole-related claims has risen by 40% in 2023 when compared to 2022.

Pothole related claims have increased by 138% since 2016, with 2023 set to be a record year for them. In 2023, Admiral saw more pothole related claims than any other full year since 2016, with claims more than doubling in that eight year period.

The previous record year for pothole claims was in 2018 when the infamous ‘Beast from the East’ caused disruption and a spike in pothole claims. There was a similar spike in January last year following the freezing temperatures in December 2022. In fact, overall 2023 saw a 25% increase in the number of pothole related claims compared to 2018.

A pothole forms when water seeps into existing small cracks in the surface of the roads and then freezes and expands in the cold weather. The frozen water then evaporates during the warmer weather, causing gaps in the surface which get broken-down by-passing traffic.

As January is set to see heavy rain and blustery weather, with Storm Henk hitting in the first week of 2024, there is the risk of new potholes developing during the new year, particularly if we see a drop in temperatures later this month.

Admiral Claims data from the last eight years reveals that 35% of pothole related claims occur between January and March - more than any other time of year. March is statistically the worst month for pothole related claims, as the month accounts for one in eight (12%) of all claims registered during the calendar year.

Driving over a deep pothole, even at a low speed, can cause damage to a vehicle’s tyres, alloy wheels, steering alignment, wheel tracking and balancing and suspension. When the steering is severely damaged it can also make it difficult for the driver to control the vehicle, which could increase the risk of accidents.

The average cost of pothole damage has also increased by 29% in 2023 compared with 2022, according to Admiral’s data, likely linked to higher tech vehicles and a general increase in the cost of repairs6.

Adam Gavin, Head of Claims at Admiral, said:

“January 15th marks National Pothole Day and anyone who drives will be familiar with that sudden ‘clunk’ from roads that are plagued with potholes. Potholes are more than just an inconvenience, they can also cause costly damage to your vehicle.

“January, February and March are the worst time of year for pothole claims, with more than a third of claims we receive made over this period, as road surfaces become unsettled by freezing temperatures and thaws.

“Pothole pockets can quickly open up, especially if the weather has been bad, which means they might not have been there the last time you took that route. Keep a sharp eye and slow down – swerving can be more dangerous! If you think you’ve hit a hum-dinger, get out and check for damage at the safest opportunity. Take photos of the pothole and the damage to your car and consider taking your vehicle to a mechanic to check for damage.

“If you have Comprehensive cover, claiming for pothole damage through your insurer should be a straightforward process, but it can affect your no claims bonus and you may need to pay an excess. However, if your car gets damaged on a British road from a pothole, unless you have comprehensive cover, you might not be able to claim on your insurance.     

“You can always try to claim compensation for any damage caused to your car, through whoever is responsible for the road you were driving on, although there is no guarantee you will be successful. This can be a tricky process, though, so we’ve created a step-by-step guide explaining how to claim compensation for pothole damage.

“It’s great that there is funding committed to fixing Britain’s potholes – we know what a huge nuisance they are for our customers. However, keeping on top of them is a challenge for local authorities so it’s always best to stay alert and keep a lookout for any potholes that might have popped up.”

With the number of potholes set to further increase, Admiral shares advice on how to try and claim for costly pothole damage from those responsible for the upkeep of the road.

How to claim compensation for pothole damage

Although there is no guarantee that motorists will be able to claim any money back if their car is damaged on a British road, Admiral has created a step-by-step guide explaining how to claim 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. Remember, your case rests on the evidence you collect from the person you’re making a claim from, so collect as much information as possible.
  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 some smaller A roads are maintained by the local councils in England, Wales and Scotland. If you believe the council is responsible, you’ll need to prove they’ve been negligent which is difficult. Asking for copies of highway maintenance schedules and reports of incidents (within 14 days of the accident) will help to demonstrate that either the highway hasn’t been properly maintained or that a reported pothole problem hasn’t been addressed. It’s important to have the evidence which shows if the council had acted, the incident wouldn’t have occurred.
  3. Reporting it: Now you know who’s in charge you’ll need to lodge a formal claim – 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. Receiving an offer: Is the council’s offer acceptable, does it cover your costs? If not, 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 fair 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 courts. However, this could be a time-consuming process and is likely to be worthwhile only if the repair bill is considerable.

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.