Claim compensation for pothole damage to your car, bike or motorcycle

Rosalind Kent
by Lovemoney Staff Rosalind Kent on 21 February 2013  |  Comments 14 comments

Local councils are shelling out thousands on compensation for damage caused by potholes to vehicles. Why not spend that money on actually fixing them?!

Claim compensation for pothole damage to your car, bike or motorcycle

With the cost of motoring already reaching astronomical heights - petrol, insurance and tax are all steadily on the rise - the last thing a driver needs is the added cost of car repairs caused by pothole damage. 

With Council Tax set to rise again in April many people are angry that, despite paying through the nose, local councils are allowing our roads to deteriorate year on year. It has been reported that only £17 per driver is spent on road maintenance in the UK. No wonder some critics have suggested it won’t be long before our roads are comparable to those of a 'third world country'.

Why are the roads so bad?

Water seeps down below our road surfaces and then freezes in the winter. This pushes up the asphalt and causes holes.

But it is not just the weather that is causing such havoc. Other contributing factors are vastly increased traffic flow, which is putting pressure on roads of all sizes throughout the UK, and the constant digging up of our roads by utility companies. When electricity and water companies perform repairs to their cables and pipes, they tend to simply patch up the road rather than resurfacing it, and this makes them more susceptible to damage.

With the vast profits that these companies make perhaps they should be forced to make proper repairs in future! 

What damage is being done?

Our vehicles are suffering from these uneven surfaces. The most obvious damage is to our wheels, with both wheel rims and punctured tyres being major complaints.

Driving on a consistently uneven surface can also take its toll on our suspension, steering mechanisms, exhausts and roll bars, which can rattle free with the constant abuse.

How to claim

Each county council will have a specific procedure for compensation claims, so make sure you check your local council’s website for specific information. Remember, you can claim for damage to bikes and motorcycles as well as cars.

As a general rule of thumb, if you aim to follow the steps below you won’t go far wrong.

  • Take a photograph of the pothole and note down its rough size and depth as well as its precise location (make a sketch of the area if you can).
  • Report it to your council using the reporting procedure specified on your council’s website.
  • If the council has not repaired it within a reasonable time (some say around a week is enough time to give) then this should strengthen your case.
  • Consider submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to the council or Highways Agency to find out as much as you can about the road and its maintenance history, as this could also strengthen your case.
  • Put all your complaints in writing and ensure that all contact with the council is done via letter or email (a phone call can always be denied). In your letter include: a full description of the accident, where and when it was (date and time), your photographs and your sketch plan of the area. Also include a copy of your repair bill for the damage caused and keep copies of all your letters!
  • If the council makes you an offer you should give it proper consideration even if you are not entirely happy. If you wish to fight on, your next option will be to take court action. Provided your claim is for under £5,000 you can take action in the Small Claims court. You won’t need a solicitor and you can issue proceedings online via their MoneyClaim Online system. For more information take a look at How to win in the Small Claims Court.

Am I likely to get a pay-out?

It won’t be easy! The council will vigorously defend itself under section 58 of the Highways Act (which basically states they just have to prove they have taken ‘reasonable’ care of the road). But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. While evidence suggests that the vast majority of claims are automatically turned down in the first instance, persistence is the key.

The table below* details a ‘snapshot’ of payouts in various counties in the UK.

County

Number of claims made

Amount paid out in compensation

Kent

4,904

£133,593

Surrey

3,650

£638,239

Essex

2,696

£103,567

Lincolnshire

620

£119,706

Nottinghamshire

777

£158,578

Barnsley

296

£241,202

*Information gathered by a Brittania Rescue survey

Start a revolution

Each individual pothole costs on average around £50 to repair, but records show that a compensation pay-out can be anywhere up to £3,000 (the average repair bill is £132). With councils paying out hundreds of thousands each year in compensation, why isn't the money being earmarked for repairing the roads instead?

If you are successful in your compensation claim, and are feeling particularly altruistic, you could consider returning your pay-out to the council on the proviso that they repair your neighbourhood roads. You will be a local hero!

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Comments (14)

  • driver67
    Love rating 26
    driver67 said

    It wouldn't be so bad if they repaired them properly. We were out on our bikes and photographed a hideously bad one, and we reported it and it was 'fixed' the next day. Not six months later it was back with a vengeance, and by an awful co-incidence the son of the bloke I was out with on my bike hit the hole and wrecked a tyre and wheel! He is going to get compensation, but nevertheless the whole thing is a disgrace.

    Report on 21 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • g0nqk
    Love rating 10
    g0nqk said

    It might interest cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers alike to know that the Cycle Tourists Club operate a website for reporting potholes at

    http://www.fillthathole.org.uk/

    Enter details of your pothole on the website and they will make sure it is reported to the relevant council. The details remain on the site for all to see so if you hit a hole that is already listed the council can not claim they did not know about it. Holes I have reported on this site have been repaired promptly.

    Report on 21 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Tes
    Love rating 5
    Tes said

    You would have thought that simple economic common sense like using the money to repair potholes instead hence removing the need for compensation, and therefore saving would be no problem for any council especially with the obvious expertise a 'CEO' of a council must have in order to attract such a huge annual salary.

    Utility companies are scarring our nation's road. Highways departments should be a lot tougher on the standard of 'repair' they allow.

    Couldn't they work together to put into practice some sort of combined fund for the upkeep of the roads.

    Afterall, one group is responsible for a lot of the damage, the other with putting it right.

    Report on 21 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • PeterAbrahams
    Love rating 1
    PeterAbrahams said

    Every time a vehicle goes over a pot hole it uses energy to get out and back to speed. Pot holes therefore add to the pollution in cities, London in particular is fined for exceeding poilution limits, therefore it fixing the pot holes improves the environment and reduces the possibility of fines.

    Report on 21 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Aitken B
    Love rating 146
    Aitken B said

    Section 58 (special defence) does not quite say what is reported. It allows a defence to an action agains them if the relevant highway authority can show they have not had reasonable time in which to repair the highway but if they have failed to take adequate steps to warn motorists of the pothole they seriously undermine that defence. Of course the complainant would have to show that the Highway Authority (not always a council) knew about the dangerous state of the road.

    An FOI request should produce the answer but if there are road engineer marks (usually spray-painted lines) round the damage, particularly if they are worn, I would say that is evidence enough to show that they knew about the damage and so there should be sufficient warning to adequately alert approaching motorists.

    I wonder how many people have had their vehicle damaged by a pot-hole etc and have not claimed from the "council". If they claim from their insurance company, that only put up insurance costs for the rest of us.

    Considering the industrial quantities of cash extorted from motorists and vehicle operators, we should have the finest roads in the world. The reality is utterly disgraceful, but we have only ourselves to blame - we let them away with it.

    It's about time we fought back and started demanding value for our money.

    Report on 21 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Ginnymay
    Love rating 39
    Ginnymay said

    Speedbumps also wreck suspension, tracking. Anyone know if it is possible to sue the council for the damage caused by these? Every approach road to our home has several of these things

    Report on 21 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • ifonlyitweretrue
    Love rating 0
    ifonlyitweretrue said

    There is a slight lack of logic in the initial section of this article. Yes, people are fed up with potholes and yes they are also fed up with rising council taxes. However the more people who sue for damages the more council tax will go up AND less money will be spent on roads - catch 22. It all just adds to the current compensation culture and adds to everyone's bills. Also councils are not responsible for the major highways in the UK - I believe this falls under the Dept for Transport.

    Many, if not all, councils sub-contract road repairs - I know our council do. For this reason there is no incentive to repair the road to a high standard - if the pothole recurs in 6 months time then the contractor will be paid again to repair it. Contractors win - councils (we) lose. Unless and until these contractors are required to guarantee their work in some way this will continue.

    Don't use the small claims service unless you are claiming at least £1500. It is not a free service and you are at the whim of whichever judge is presiding at the time. From personal experience (not for potholes but for shoddy workmanship) it can cost you money even if the ruling is found in your favour.

    Speed humps are regulated under the Highways (Traffic Calming) Regulations. Unless the speed humps do not conform to the specifications set out in these regulations you will not be able to claim.

    I have reported potholes to my council in the past and they have been filled in (with varying degrees on longevity). At the moment that's all we can do - and at the next elections vote for someone who promises to do something about the roads.

    Report on 21 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • bengilda
    Love rating 100
    bengilda said

    While there is no immediate instant solution to road repairs, perhaps it would be of future value for utility services to be located under "sidewalks", possibly in conduits, thus avoiding the incessant problem of opening and then patching good road surfaces.

    Report on 21 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • liz07
    Love rating 0
    liz07 said

    I would have to take so many pictures as there are too many pot holes to count on my way to and from work. I would take all day to picture them and measure them!!

    My local council are slowly relaying all the roads, my road which is really bad has been put aside as the people in charge do not know how to cope with the fact that half the road is tarmac and the other half concrete.

    If only £17 of our council tax is spent on the roads what are we paying road tax for?

    And finally driving down to the south west on the M5 we encountered pot holes as well.

    Report on 22 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • jonnie2thumbs
    Love rating 107
    jonnie2thumbs said

    move to France

    I haven't seen a pothole in the last 4 years.....

    Report on 25 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • alanelger
    Love rating 0
    alanelger said

    It wouldnt be a bad idea to repair the pot holes properly when they actually get round to it

    Report on 07 March 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • fongy
    Love rating 0
    fongy said

    I wrecked two tyres and two wheels due to Staffordshire County Council not putting "shoulders" on a storm drain at the side of a country lane. They had just left it sticking up 8".without the sloping sides. I took photos of it but they refused to pay for the damage caused to my vehicle . the following day the shoulders suddenly appeared on it. I contacted them again and they still refused to pay up.!

    Report on 07 March 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • joegriffin2002
    Love rating 3
    joegriffin2002 said

    Over the last 5 years i have damaged 2 wheels, 3 tyres, 1 spring, 1 exhaust, 2 lots of suspension. I have reported the potholes a few times and tried claiming back expenses for repairs from the local authority twice to no avail. Recently having changed cars i have damaged my suspension and this time i am out of work and cannot afford to have repairs done for some time, while my car is parked up i am still wasting money on insurance and road tax for a car i cannot use due to the local authoritys lack of orginisation in fixing major potholes and road damage in my town. What can i do?

    Report on 10 March 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • lauralouise90
    Love rating 1
    lauralouise90 said

    I kept damaging my car through potholes and contacting the council numerous times for something to be done. Recently my car was damaged by potholes again, but this time the pothole was so deep that I had a whiplash claim too - I used these guys for my personal injuries compensation (http://www.tbilaw.co.uk/injury-and-negligence/personal-injury-solicitors/) and so far so good!

    Report on 12 July 2013  |  Love thisLove  1 love

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