It feels like potholes are everywhere. Sometimes, a road is so riddled with the perilous pockmarks that it’s impossible to avoid them.
Not only are they irritating, but they’re a hazard to road safety and can seriously damage your car if you hit one, even at low speed.
So, if your car has fallen foul and needs expensive repairs, here’s how you can make a claim for pothole damage.
What is a pothole anyway?
A pothole is a hole that has formed in the surface of a road. They can damage a car’s suspension, warp the wheels, and cause tears and punctures in your tyres.
Why are there so many potholes in the UK?
Potholes are a particular problem on British roads because of, you guessed it, our weather.
They’re caused when water seeps into small cracks in the road’s surface. This loosens the ground underneath and can cause the tarmac to collapse. When it’s very cold, the holes can be made even worse due to the water freezing and expanding, and then thawing. Add some heavy vehicles passing over the top of it, and things crumble even more quickly.
To give an idea of just how many potholes there are on our roads, the 2023 survey report from the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) stated that 1.4 million potholes were filled in 2022; at a cost of £93.7 million.
Can I claim for pothole damage to my car?
Yes, you can claim for pothole damage through your car insurance.
However, be aware that if you claim it could affect your no-claim discount and lead to a more expensive premium when you renew. It’s also important to consider your excess; the amount of money you need to pay towards any claim.
If you do decide to make an insurance claim, have the following details to hand:
- Your policy number and documents
- Your vehicle registration number
- Details about what happened and when
There’s also the option of pursuing a compensation claim against the local authority responsible for maintaining the road.
How to report a pothole and submit a council claim
If you’d rather not claim for pothole damage on your car insurance, or if it doesn’t seem cost-effective, you could try contacting the local authority responsible for the road.
To give yourself the best chance of success with a council claim, make sure you gather as much evidence as possible. The steps are:
- Take good-quality photos of the pothole in question
- Take photos of any damage it caused to your car
- Note the pothole’s location
- Keep all receipts for repair work
- Report the pothole to the local authority or the National Highways agency
Most councils allow you to report potholes via their websites. You can find out which authority is responsible using the Government’s ‘Report a Pothole’ webpage.
Before submitting your claim, make sure you’re familiar with the claims procedure and that you’ve gathered all the necessary details and evidence.
You will be asked questions like:
- What damage was caused?
- Why do you think the local authority is responsible?
- The date and time the damage was caused
- The specific location of where the damage took place – be ready with road names and landmarks that can identify which part of the road you were on
Bear in mind that you can’t claim compensation if debris from another vehicle caused the damage. In that instance, you should contact your insurer instead.
The council or authority will inform you of the outcome of your claim for pothole damage. They may accept the claim and cover all or part of the repair costs, or they may reject the claim altogether. If your claim is rejected, it may be possible to appeal the decision, but if all else fails, you could take your case to the small claims court. If that’s the road you want to go down, seek legal advice first!
Pothole damage from private property
If the road owner has public liability insurance, you may be able to claim on that. Otherwise, you may want to claim on your own insurance.
How to prevent pothole damage
General advice for preventing damage includes:
- Drive at the speed limit
- Keep a good grip on the steering wheel
- Drive cautiously when you see puddles as it’s often where water has collected in potholes
- Keep a safe distance between your car and the car in front (so you can see the road ahead)
- Make sure your tyres are in good condition