In the first of two blogs, we looked at the damage that a pothole can do to your vehicle. Here, we look at who might be liable for compensation and how you can make a claim. We will guide you through what you need to do when the damage occurs, who to contact and what evidence you will need to gather before getting in contact with the relevant organisation.
If you have a fully comprehensive motor trade insurance or courier insurance policy, you may also be able to claim for the damage through your insurance agent but remember that it could affect your no claims bonus.
How to Report a Pothole
As potholes are a persistent safety hazard, you need to report holes that are causing a problem regardless of whether it caused your vehicle damage. This is because you are more likely to be successful in a claim if the issue has already been reported to your local authority.
There are a few ways to do this: go online and register it at gov.uk/report-pothole, which will direct you to your local council. If the pothole is on a motorway or A-road managed by Highways England, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, FixMyStreet is a website where it is quick and easy to report a pothole or other street problems, and these will be passed on to the relevant authorities.
How Do I Make a Claim?
If your vehicle has been damaged by the pothole, the first place to try and make a compensation claim is with your local council or body that controls the road.
The chances of you getting a successful outcome will depend on evidence as well as whether the pothole has already been reported. Unfortunately, a council cannot be held liable if they weren’t aware of the issue (hence the importance of reporting all potholes that can be a hazard for you or other drivers).
Each individual authority tends to have its own claims process. When you report the issue, you will generally be sent a ‘damage report’ form to fill out, and attach evidence such as photographs, estimates or invoices for repairs, and your current MOT certificate.
The proof you will need:
- Gathering evidence: As soon as possible after the event, write down full details about the location of the pothole and the rough size, shape, and depth. If it is safe to do so, it’s a good idea to take a photograph of the offending pothole with some indication of depth and a quick sketch of its position on the road, including surrounding features.
- Secure witnesses. If any other people saw the incident, get their details as this may help your claim going forward.
- Your vehicle. Take photographs of the any dents, scratches, tyre damage or other visible signs to your car before getting it fixed. Keep all garage quotes and invoices for repairs, and ensure they are fully dated and itemised. Make a copy to send off with your claim (don’t send the originals unless specifically requested).
It can take several weeks to hear back from your council or authority regarding he result of your claim. They may accept the claim and offer to cover the full cost of the repairs or a portion of the repairs. Alternatively, they may reject the claim entirely.
What if My Claim Gets Rejected?
If the council can prove they have a regular inspection and maintenance system in place, they may be able to reject your claim under Section 58 of the Highways Act. If this happens and you want to appeal the decision, you will need to do further research before going back to them. Review the information on their website, check what the council is liable for and request council reports to see if they have carried out a ‘reasonable’ system of inspection and repair.
If you are considerably out of pocket, it could be worthwhile persevering. Keep copies of all the correspondence you both receive and send and always remain calm and professional in dealing with your local authorities. There is also the option of the small claims court, but this could incur legal fees if you fail.
Should I Negotiate?
If you do receive an offer from your council but you consider it too low, you are within your rights to negotiate. But also weigh up the extra time and effort this will take and whether you believe it is worth the additional work.
Should I Claim on My Motor Trade Insurance?
You could also make a claim on your motor trade, courier or van insurance but remember to weigh up the excess you will need to pay, how it may affect your no-claims bonus and the prospect of it leading to a higher premium when your policy is up for renew.