Car insurance

Snow warning: how to make a claim for pothole damage to your vehicle


With the country in the depths of winter, potholes are at the front of the minds of drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists.

These chunks of missing road tend to be most obvious in the coldest months, when a routine of freezing and thawing damages road surfaces.

Last year’s "Beast from the East" was one factor in the doubling of successful claims for property damage to a vehicle caused by potholes. Highways England paid out £164,341 in compensation for this in 2017/18. The average payout rose to a five-year high of £311.25.

The worsening state of British roads prompted MPs to launch an enquiry into potholes in Aug 2018. In last year’s Autumn Statement Chancellor Philip Hammond gave councils an extra £420m to fix the holes.

If your vehicle is damaged by hitting a pothole, there is good news and bad news. The good news is you may be able to make a claim for the cost of repair. The bad news is this is a confusing and lengthy process.

A spokesman for the AA, a motoring group, said: “The big caveat for claiming against a pothole is that it is not a quick process, or a very nice process to go through. Which is one of the reasons why it puts people off claiming in the first place.”

Telegraph Money is here to help you through. This is a guide for what you should do from the point of hitting a pothole onwards.

1) Pull over and check

If you hit a pothole and suspect it has damaged your vehicle, pull over and inspect it.

If it has, take photos or sketches of the pothole and any obvious damage to your vehicle, provided it is safe to do this. You should also record the location of the pothole and its approximate size.

If there are any witnesses, take their details.

Some damage might not be immediately obvious, such as impaired steering. If you later suspect the pothole caused this sort of damage, get your car checked by a garage as soon as possible and get evidence of the hole that caused the problem.

2) Report it

You should also report the pothole to the relevant agency in charge of road repairs, even if you do not plan to make a claim. You can do this online or over the telephone.

If the hole is on a motorway or major A-road in England, report it to Highways England. In Wales, report it to one of the Trunk Road Agents, and in Scotland the correct agency is Transport Scotland.

If the pothole is on a smaller road, it is the responsibility of the local council, so report it to them.

If you hit a pothole in the capital, inform Transport For London.

3) Get repaired

The next step is to get your vehicle fixed. Make sure you get receipts, and ideally more than one quote for the repair.

4) Claim

Then make your claim. Most councils and highway agencies will send you a form when you report the pothole.

To claim, fill in this form, giving as much detail and evidence as you can of the damage to your vehicle.

However, the AA said these claims can be thrown out. The Highways Act 1980 allows road authorities to decline claims provided they took reasonable steps to make sure the road is maintained and potholes dealt with quickly.

5) Next steps

If your claim is thrown out, or you think you are being offered too little money, you can either give in, make a claim on  your car insurance (which could affect your premiums and no claims bonus) or keep fighting.

If you choose to fight, you must try to prove the body responsible for the road did not do a good enough job of road repairs.

One way of doing this is to ask the road authority for details of repairs  to the road that damaged your car, or do so through the Freedom of Information Act.

The latter can take 20 working days, but if you can prove that the road has been neglected it is hard for your claim to be turned down.

Another possibility is to go through the small claims court, though this is a last-ditch option and can involve legal bills if you lose.


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