Winter Motoring Guide
04/12/2013 12:00 | By Steve Walker

How to claim pothole accident damage compensation

Potholes are a growing blight on our motoring lives in the UK. Here’s what to do if your car falls victim to pothole damage and needs expensive repairs.

Pothole repairs (© Rex)

Potholes are a growing problem in the UK. Stretched maintenance budgets and recent severe winters and have brought a pothole plague on our roads which increasing numbers of motorists are falling victim to.

Potholes are growing in number, growing in size and have the potential to do serious, expensive damage to your car. According to an AA survey, a third of UK cars have sustained pothole damage over the last two years and investment of up to £10.5 billion would be needed to bring the roads into good condition.

Pothole repair bills for fixing damaged tyres, wheels and suspension components can run into hundreds if not thousands of pounds and what are motorists supposed to do? Put it down to bad luck? Resolve to be more careful next time? You could, but wouldn’t it be better to make a claim and get your damaged car repaired for free?

The mad, the bad and the ugly - potholes from around the world

How to claim for Pothole damage to your car

You’re winding your way home on a dark evening when suddenly and without warning you feel the dreaded thump of doom. Your wheel drops into a pothole of meteor-strike proportions and you instantly feel that something’s amiss with your car. You pull over and get out to assess the damage. It doesn’t look good. This is going to be expensive to fix. But what do you do?


Pothole damage (© Rex)


Who do you claim your pothole repair costs from?

You have three basic options when it comes to getting pothole damage repaired. The first is to put your hand in your own pocket but we don’t very much like the idea of that! The second is to claim on your car insurance. The problem with this route is that pothole damage will typically only run to a few hundred pounds and a claim might not be worthwhile once you’ve paid the excess and waved goodbye to your no-claims discount.


your claim needs to be very clear on which carriageway crater is guilty of the crime

The third and infinitely preferable option is to get someone else to pay for the repairs - the body responsible for the road being in a state of disrepair in the first place, for instance. If the pothole concerned is in a motorway or A road, it’s the responsibility of the Highways Agency. If the pothole is in a minor road, it’s the local council’s lookout.  


Gather evidence of the pothole

Your car has been damaged and your claim needs to be very clear on which carriageway crater is guilty of the crime. Before you go wandering around in the road with your eyes clamped to a camera’s viewfinder though, make sure it’s safe. If the incident happened at night, get a fix on the pothole's position and come back in the daylight.

Take the offending pothole’s measurements (length, width and depth). Then get some photos of it with something in the shot for scale (a ruler would be good but your foot will do). Take a wider shot showing the pothole’s position and make a note of any other relevant information. Is the pothole on a bend or difficult to see for some other reason?

£5m paid out in pothole damage over 2 years

Pothole damage (© Rex)


Report the pothole

This hole in the road has done serious damage to your car so your priority should be to ensure the same fate doesn’t befall anyone else.

Write a detailed letter to the council explaining what happened

Report the pothole to the Highways Agency or the local council, depending who’s responsible for the road. There’s no need to let them know you might make a claim at this stage but be aware that the pothole might be miraculously repaired in the near future so make sure your evidence is in the bag.


How to make a claim for the cost of repairing pothole damage to your car

It’s not too difficult. Write a detailed letter to the council or Highways Agency explaining exactly what happened, the extent of the damage and where the pothole is located. Include a hand-drawn map showing the pothole. Get a quote for the repairs from a reputable local garage and include that too.

Be aware that the process may take a long time and you might have to provide additional information. Keep it all clear and professional, don’t blow your top at a council employee because your car is off the road and you can't get to the supermarket, they are just doing their job.  

Pothole-proof car brands revealed

Large pothole (© Rex)


Will the council fight my claim for pothole repair costs?

It may not simply be a case of making a claim and waiting for the cheque to roll in. You might prove that your car was damaged by a particular pothole but the authorities have a defence under section 58 of the Highways Act. If the council has taken “reasonable measures” to maintain and ensure the safety of its roads, it may not liable.

In some cases, the council will hold its hands up but if it decides to fight the claim you’ll need to do some research. The way to fight back is to prove that your pothole has been previously reported to the authorities and not repaired properly or promptly.

If the council thinks it’s in the right, it won’t pay up

Leading potholes website recommends that you can make a Freedom of Information Act request to find out how that particular road is maintained then compare this information to the 'Well-maintained Highways Code of practice for road maintenance'. If the council’s regime doesn’t measure up, you’ve got ‘em.    

What happens if they still won’t pay my pothole repair costs?

If the council or Highways Agency thinks it’s in the right, it won’t pay up. This is where you need to consider your options very carefully. Don’t rush into expensive legal proceedings unless you are sure your case will stand up to scrutiny.

Weigh up the value of any potential payout against the cost in time and money of pursuing the relevant body through the courts. Remember that sometimes, in the eyes of the law, pothole damage to your car is just an accident.   




14/03/2013 18:16
Some of them are that bad even going slow doesn't make any difference. Instead of spending £32 Billion on this insanely high speed rail link wouldn't it be a much better option to spend a third of that amount getting our road network up to scratch.
14/03/2013 19:24
if its not the pot holes that get u the speed bumps will.all that tarmac could of been used to fill the pot speed bumps are a wast of time.
14/03/2013 18:36

What councils seem to be forgetting is that if you are trying to avoid potholes in the roads it is taking you're attention away from other road users I wonder how long it will be before someone is killed if this has not already happened.

14/03/2013 19:57
we pay road tax for this yet they say they have no money to fix them . what dose it go on.
14/03/2013 18:38

Why are these road contractors not made to give a guarantee of workmanship? Any faults that appear should be repaired by them as part of the contract, say for five years.


14/03/2013 18:13
what about road humps/road ramps too???
14/03/2013 19:32
The state of our road network will never improve all the time utillity companys install their services under roads as a cheap option, and when things go wrong bugger the motorist and poor quality reinstatements.
14/03/2013 20:20
Its most dangerous for cyclists and bikers, especially in the dark, if they hit one and come off their bikes it could end up with a fatality. Pot holes should be filled in immediately or if not at least cordened off as their more than simply a hazard for people on bikes, they could end up losing their life.
will this take over from whiplash the lawyers will be sending the text out tomorrow
15/03/2013 08:08
There are better roads in China,Govt has had enough cash from the motorists over the years to pave the roads with Gold Bars.
14/03/2013 16:01
There's only one reason no one is fixing the pot holes...


You have to slow down or risk damage and that makes the Governments road safety figures look good.

15/03/2013 09:00
if you dont pay road tax,heavy penalty and loose your car but transport ministry are biggest thiefs who are pocheting our money and we only watch.
14/03/2013 22:05

Under HSE Legislation one would not ask a crane to lift 44.tonnes with a limit of 32 tonnes ! 

Then why up the load limit of lorries to 44 tonnes when the roads were

simply not designed to take this capicity loading.

Clearly there is guilt and as always at the upper level. Culpapable ? Most likely

14/03/2013 21:06
I find it embarrassing to go to Poland on holiday and find that their roads are in better shape than ours. The pavements look like they've been shelled, but that's another matter.
15/03/2013 04:31

Maybe if the extortionate road fund licence monies were allocated and spent on the intended, then maybe the problem would be non existent.


Not only do we have to contend with dangerous road surfaces, but the deliberate man made speed cushions and sleeping policemen both of which cause problems with steering geometry.

I think you will find that if the Council/Highways Agency have marked around the pot hole with yello or white paint they wont pay out at all.
15/03/2013 09:32
Lets face it we are becoming a third world country what with the rest of the world dumping there undesirable people over here etc. I gave up driving years ago to many damn idiots on the road these days, lets not forget that they come over here after driving for years on the right hand side  and they think that they can get away with it over here. Pull one over and they do not even speak our language ugh they make me mad, sorry forgot i am !!!!
15/03/2013 09:09
Yes been there done it worn the T shirt If you live in Essex they will NOT pay even if you provide everthing they ask for they just say they were not negligent I have had to pay out over £1200 in the last 12 months The only way to win is take them to court just use a good solicitor and keep your fingers crossed
15/03/2013 11:57

Road repairs now come out of your council tax - absolute disgrace - Used to be about 60% of the road fund licence went on the roads but now Vehicle Excise Duty (Tax) - You had a perfect engine for keeping up repairs, but governments got greedy and just see it as another tax


scrap the vehicle excise duty, spread the cost across fuel and use the money to repair the roads - That way everyone pays their share for what they use - 20,000 miles per annum you pay more than the little pensioner who goes to the shops also foreign drivers will then have to pay their dues


It really isn't rocket science

15/03/2013 09:53

surely my road tax goes into the government pot  billions of £s so why do we sue the local council

if the £s  are not returned the tax  to councils for road repair and maintenance

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