Who do I raise my complaint with?
What evidence do I need to collect?
Make a note of where and when the incident took place. You can also return to the scene and measure the depth and diameter of the crater. Potholes of at least 40mm deep are generally considered to pose a danger to vehicles.
If possible, take photos of the pothole and its surroundings to support your written complaint and get your mechanic to provide a comment about the damage to your vehicle and an itemised bill for their work if they have made a repair.
Do I need to report the pothole?
Irrespective of your claim, notify the relevant authority about the pothole so that it goes onto their register.
What are my rights?
Follow the relevant authority’s instructions to make your claim. They will either reject it or pay out.
Your right to claim is covered by the Highways Act 1980: section 41 of the act requires authorities to maintain roads and allows damages to be paid if they fail to do so.
However, Section 58 of the act gives them a some loopholes. This says that you should be entitled to recompense if the council was aware of the pothole that caused damage to your vehicle or, crucially, if it is reasonable to expect the council to have been aware of the hole.
In short, if the authority can prove it had taken reasonable steps to maintain the stretch of road in question, following national guidelines – they might nit have to pay out.
The local authority won’t pay out. What else can I do?
Dealing with highway or local authorities can sometimes be frustrating, and there is a chance that authorities will try to deny your claim – less than a quarter of claims are successful, but that doesn’t mean you should give up.
The Section 58 defence (detailed above) is the most commonly used by council to reject claims. If that’s the reason behind the refusal to compensate there are still some avenues you can take.
One is to send a Freedom of Information Act 2000 request asking for evidence that the authority has taken the necessary steps to attempt to repair the pothole that caused the damage. They have to respond to your FOI within 20 working days.
If they do provide evidence, compare it to the guidelines set out for councils by the UK Roads Liaison Group.
If you think the authority has failed to follow these guidance then you may want to consider taking your claim further. But if they’ve followed it to the letter you may struggle to get any further. If you still think your case is strong, you can present your evidence to a small claims court.
Can I claim on my motor insurance policy?
If the authority refuses to compensate, you may be able to turn to your insurer, providing you have comprehensive cover.
Insurance claims are an option, but you should take time to consider the ramifications of pursuing a claim, if the repair costs are especially high (for suspension damage, for instance).