Claiming for Damage Caused by Potholes
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More and more motorists are thinking of claiming compensation for damage caused by potholes. But the amount paid out is still small: only £3 million a year. That’s because only a small percentage of claims are successful.
This guide should greatly improve your chances of a successful claim but beware that it’s not a quick or easy process, and there is no guarantee of winning compensation in the end.
Step 1 - Gather evidence of the pothole
As soon as you realise a pothole has damaged your vehicle, take these steps: measure and photograph the pothole; note its exact position in the road and, of course, which road it is; take contact details of any witnesses.
Step 2 - Whose hole is it?
Find out who is responsible for the road. It’s usually the local council. But the Highways Agency deals with England’s motorways and trunk roads. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own arrangements. Private roads and car parks are the responsibility of their owner.
If in doubt contact the Highways Agency (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the local authority and ask.
Step 3 - Report the pothole
If the road authorities act on your information promptly, you’ll be helping other drivers avoid what happened to you. You’ll also be demonstrating you’re a good citizen if the case ever comes to court. Potholes can’t be repaired if the authorities don’t know about them.
It’s easy to report a hole. Simply visit this page: https://www.gov.uk/report-pothole
This may help you find who is responsible for your particular stretch of road too.
Step 4 - Prove the damage
Get several quotes, then, when you get the vehicle repaired, keep the receipt. Ask the garage to carefully itemise the costs on it and, if they can, add in writing that the damage was caused by a pothole.
Step 5 - Make a claim
The Highways Agency and some councils will send out a compensation claim form. You simply fill it in and return it with copies of your evidence. Other authorities will require you to write, explaining that you are making a claim and setting out your case.
Step 6 - Take it further
Councils currently reject an estimated three-quarters of claims. Many claimants give up at that point.
Increasing numbers, however, are pursuing their pothole claim to a successful conclusion.
To fight your case may involve engaging a solicitor or a specialist pothole claim organisation (like http://www.potholeclaimshelp.com/) who charge a set fee to challenge the council’s response. Unfortunately, professional help will definitely cost money… and you may still not be successful.
Step 7 - Do-it-yourself
It is completely possible, however, for drivers to pursue their claim further themselves. It will take a little research and determination.
You simply have to ask the council to see details of their road inspection report. They are obliged under Freedom of Information laws to show you.
You will be able to see if they have been negligent in not inspecting your particular stretch. If you find something untoward in their information you can simply write to them to claim again or take the case to the Small Claims Court.
Useful links for more detailed information:
The Highways Agency pothole page
Pothole advice from the RAC
Detailed information about pursuing a compensation claim from a specialist organisation set up by Warranty Direct
A comprehensive and independent 10,000-word reference guide to claiming pothole compensation