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Can I Claim for Pothole Damage from the Council?

Accidents or damage caused by potholes has become a regular occurrence throughout the UK. These potholes can be hazardous, especially in extreme weather conditions. To avoid accidents or damage, always drive safely, paying close attention to the road ahead to identify any potholes or damaged areas.

Getting compensation for a claim against damage or injury from a pothole is not the most straightforward task. In some cases, it is possible to make a claim, and this article will help you determine your eligibility. We cover details on all the necessary information you need to report potholes and how to find out whether you can claim or not.

What causes potholes?

Various factors contribute to the development of potholes, with the weather being the primary cause in the UK. During heavy rainfalls, potholes begin to expand, making it difficult to maintain the road and repair the potholes. Potholes are caused by rain seeping into existing cracks in the road caused by normal wear and tear.

Each year, the council repairs more than 2 million potholes. Cold weather and rain often cause these potholes to reappear. When it gets colder, the water inside the cracks starts to expand when frozen, which causes the roads to break down into potholes due to moving traffic. Heavy trucks, lorries and other vehicles transporting materials can also damage the road surface.

Who is responsible for potholes?

In most cases, local authorities are responsible for maintaining roads and preventing newly formed potholes from expanding rapidly. Local authorities receive a share of a £500 million budget each year to repair potholes. If you notice an increase in potholes and do not see any repairs or improvements, you should contact your local council. In fact, all potholes should be reported so that they can be repaired as soon as possible.

If a pothole has damaged your car, your local authority or one of the four national authorities could be liable for the damage. The four national authorities include Traffic Wales, Transport Scotland, Department for Infrastructure, and Highways England.

What damage can potholes do to your car?

Potholes don’t only cause vehicle damage. They could lead to car accidents, resulting in significant injuries and even fatal outcomes. Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where it is impossible to avoid a pothole due to oncoming traffic or other problems. Hitting the pothole could cause severe damage to your tyres, suspension, body panels, and exhaust system. Not to mention personal injuries such as whiplash, back injuries and other damage to you or your passengers.

Below are some of the most common types of car damage that potholes can cause:

Tyre and wheel damage – Your tyres are most likely to get damaged if you hit a pothole at a relatively high speed. Issues that may arise with your tyre’s overall condition include tread separation, sidewall bulges, or punctures. Your tyres are among the most critical aspects of ensuring vehicle safety. If your tyres are not in good condition, they may blow while driving at higher speeds and cause an accident.

However, tyres are not the only way your wheels can get damaged by potholes. Rim scratches and cracks could also appear and cost even more than tyre repairs if the rim is fractured or cracked.

Suspension – Driving through a pothole could damage your car’s suspension by misaligning it. The sudden force of the impact could cause misalignment and potentially bend the suspension completely out of shape. If you drove through a pothole recently, you should pay attention to your alignment. If you feel your car swerving to one side or your steering wheel is shaking, you should get your vehicle checked immediately and consider seeking compensation.

Body Panels – If your car is a low rider, driving through a pothole could severely damage body panels such as bumpers and side skirts.

Exhaust – Your exhaust is another low-hanging part of the car that could easily be damaged by hitting a pothole. Exhaust repairs are not cheap and should be taken up with your council if it was not your fault.

The best way to see whether your car has suffered damage by driving through a pothole is to take it for an inspection at your local car garage.

How to claim for pothole damage to my car?

Your local council should have a system for community members to contact them about any complaints. This is usually done through a dedicated email address or online portal. Your local council could be liable for damage to your vehicle if they have received a report of defective roads or potholes and failed to repair it within a reasonable timeframe. If the council was unaware of the pothole and no one had reported it, they are less likely to be held responsible for any damage.

The depth of a pothole can significantly impact the validity of your claim for damages, as councils typically have minimum depth requirements for considering a pothole hazardous. For example, some local authorities may require a pothole to be at least 40mm deep for a claim to be valid. It is essential to consult your local council’s guidelines to understand the specific depth criteria in your area and determine whether the pothole in question meets these requirements.

That’s why it’s essential to report any potholes you encounter on the roads as soon as possible. You can also claim damages caused by potholes while riding a bike, motorcycle or any other form of transport. You should follow a couple of guidelines listed below for claiming against the council for damages caused by a pothole to any type of vehicle.

  • Your complaint should be submitted in writing or using the local authority’s online portal.
  • Photographs and other means of evidence are always crucial in these situations. Where possible, take photos showing the size and exact location of the pothole. This evidence can then be supplied to the council together with a report.
  • Submit a “Freedom of Information Act” request to find out about the past and present road works and maintenance that have taken place on the road. If the council has not been inspecting the road frequently and hasn’t done the necessary maintenance, you may have a strong case.
  • You would also need to submit a quotation from a reliable vehicle repair shop for the council to see how much damage the pothole had caused.
  • Lastly, you must consider what the council is prepared to pay you for your car’s damages. If you are unhappy with their offer, you can take it further by consulting with a solicitor. This could give you the chance of getting a substantial amount to make up for your efforts – not only for your efforts but the damage and stress you have endured due to the pothole not being repaired.

What evidence will I need to claim for pothole damage?

Pictures of the pothole, proof of its dimensions, and photos of the damage it caused to your vehicle are essential if you want to make a successful claim. You can always return to the scene later with a measuring tape to ensure that you have accurate details. In an emergency, you can use an everyday item like a lighter or coin to show the pothole size in comparison.

Standard procedures with any damage claim include providing details like the date and time your vehicle was damaged. Additionally, gather as much information as possible from any witnesses present at the scene.

Can I appeal if the council rejects my claim for pothole damage?

Although it is possible to claim damage caused by a pothole, it can be challenging. That said, if the damage caused by the pothole is significant and expensive to repair, you’d want to fight for what is rightly owed to you.

To begin with, you should establish why the council did not accept your claim. Potholes need to be of specific dimensions to be classified as a pothole, and you will have to prove that the pothole was what caused the damage. If the pothole is not classified as such, you will have problems getting any sort of compensation from the council.

However, if you believe the council’s rejection was unjust, you can appeal their decision. You may want to seek legal advice or consult with a solicitor who specialises in such cases. They can help you gather additional evidence, strengthen your case, and guide you through the appeal process.

Appealing a rejected claim can be time-consuming and may incur additional costs, so weighing the potential benefits against the costs and effort involved is essential. If the damage to your vehicle was relatively minor, it might not be worth pursuing an appeal. However, pursuing compensation may be worthwhile if you believe your case is strong and the damages are substantial.

Keep in mind that there is usually a specific timeframe within which you must appeal a rejected claim, often within three months of receiving the rejection notice. However, this may vary depending on your local council’s guidelines, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with the relevant deadlines and submit your appeal promptly to ensure that your case remains eligible for reconsideration.

Can I claim for personal injury caused by a pothole?

If you or your child sustained injuries because of a pothole accident, you might be eligible for personal injury compensation if the council owns the road. Pothole damage to vehicles is on the rise throughout the UK.

Due to the increase in claims, the requirements for claims are stringent. To be eligible, you will need to prove that the pothole is indeed classified as such and that it was the sole contributor to the injuries.

To make a personal injury claim, you should follow similar steps as you would for a pothole damage claim. Collect evidence, including photographs of the pothole, measurements, and details of the accident. Gather information from any witnesses and seek medical attention to document the injuries sustained.

Consult a personal injury solicitor who can assess your case and help you navigate the claims process. They will guide you through gathering the necessary evidence, submitting your claim, and negotiating with the council or their insurers. If necessary, your solicitor can also represent you in court if your claim goes to trial. You can find out more on our guide to pothole accident claims.

In conclusion, claiming for pothole damage or personal injury caused by a pothole can be challenging. However, if you have a strong case and are willing to put in the effort, you may be able to secure compensation for the damages you have suffered. Always report potholes to your local council to help prevent further accidents and damage to vehicles in your community.


Last edited on 5th Jun 2024

With over 15 years in the legal industry, Nicholas Tate has a wealth of knowledge and experience covering all types of personal injury and clinical negligence claims.