Britain is in the midst of a pothole crisis, with roads and highways across the country crumbling under the strain of bad weather and increasing traffic.
Councils are working hard to fix the issue (in 2020/2021, authorities in England and Wales repaired 1.67 million potholes - the equivalent of one every 19 seconds!) but that doesn’t help much if you’re unlucky enough to hit one.
So, what do you do if disaster strikes? How do you claim for damages, who’s responsible… and will it affect your no claims bonus? Here’s everything you need to know! 🚗💥🕳
Believe it or not, there is no recognised definition for a pothole. The Road Surface Treatments Association has called for change, saying a concrete definition would stop councils “moving the goalposts” and ignoring holes which don’t meet their criteria.
A pothole is generally accepted as being a sharp-edged depression where the road’s surface has been damaged to a depth of more than 40mm (about the height of two 20p coins) on main roads, and 50mm on local access roads.
Potholes are the result of rainwater penetrating beneath the surface, eroding the underlying layers and causing the road to break down. Over winter, this damage can become much worse thanks to the water within the cracks and potholes freezing and subsequently expanding, causing further deterioration. (Anyone remember learning about freeze-thaw action in geography class? 🤓)
It’s important to report potholes whether you intend to claim compensation or not. By alerting the authorities to their presence, repairs can hopefully be carried out.
National Highways manage the majority of Britain’s strategic road network, including motorways, and you can call them on 0300 123 5000 or visit their website to report the pothole. On the other hand, local councils are responsible for the smaller A roads, B roads and local lanes, and their specific websites will contain a section for reporting potholes.
You might find it easier to report the issue to the FixMyStreet website. Designed to pass on problems directly to the local councils responsible for them, FixMyStreet helps you report potholes if you don’t know the correct authority to go to.
Your report should include as many details as possible. The pothole’s approximate size and depth should be given, and it can be useful to include a photo with your report. Try to include something in your photo to show the size of the hole. Your foot, a pen or a newspaper can give a pretty good idea of how dangerous the hole is.
You can also include information such as:
If your car was damaged by the pothole, it’s important to take a series of clear photos, focusing on scratches, dents, or any breakages potentially caused by the hole. If anyone saw the accident, ask for their details. If you choose to pursue compensation, this evidence can push the balance in your favour.
You’ve hit a pothole and heard that dispiriting clunk. What now?
You’ll be pleased to hear that it’s possible to claim] in full for any damage caused to your vehicle. As a result of poorly maintained road surfaces, during the period 2020/21, £3.6 million was paid in compensation.
You’ll need to establish that the damage was caused by a pothole and that the council responsible failed in its duty to maintain a safe road surface. Most pothole accidents affect the vehicle’s tyres, wheels or axles, and the results can be felt or heard immediately. Your mechanic should be able to identify the probable cause of any problems and put their findings in writing.
How much you can claim depends on the extent of the damage. If there was a prior problem with your car, and the pothole exacerbated it, you may only receive a part payment, but it’s still worth pursuing compensation. Some people have also successfully claimed for personal injury. If you wish to do this, you should seek legal advice.
Remember, though, that claiming for an accident will affect your no claims bonus, and you will have to pay any excess on your policy.
Weigh these figures against the cost of any repairs before deciding which route to take.
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