Potholes are large breaks that appear on the surface of a road due to water, fluctuating temperatures and the weight of vehicles passing by. They can be dangerous for road users and cause damage to cars, too.
They are a widespread issue on British roads with the Road Surface Treatments Association estimating in 2017 that it would take £12.6 Million and 14 years to handle the backlog of required pothole repairs. So, what should you do if your car is damaged by a pothole?
Assess the damage
If your car is damaged by driving over a pothole, then you might be able to get compensation from the local council.
The first step is to check the condition of your car. If you feel like a pothole might have caused some damage, pull over when it is safe to do so to assess the damage. If you’re on a motorway, then pull onto the hard shoulder if you are able to do so safely.
Look for any visible damage to your wheels and tyres. Also, check for any vibrations while you're driving and check if your steering wheel doesn't centre properly or if the car pulls to one side. If you’re not sure of the damage, then it’s best to have your car assessed at a garage.
Make sure to keep receipts for any repair work you have done. If the damage doesn’t need fixing urgently, then get a quote from the garage.
Collect information about the pothole and damage caused
If you plan to make a claim with the local council, then it’s important to gather as much information as possible.
Note down the exact location of the pothole - including the name of the road and whereabouts on that road it can be found - as well as the time of your incident.
Photos can really help. So, if it is safe to do so, take photos immediately or at least on the day the incident happened. The photos should show the depth of the pothole; using some nearby objects can help to give a sense of scale. Most councils count a defect in the road as a pothole if it is at least 4cm deep. Also, take photos of the damage to your car.
If anyone saw what happened, then ask them for their contact details and whether they’d be willing to put what they saw in writing.
How to make a claim with the council
Contact the local authority responsible for the road to tell them what the damage was and why you think they are responsible. They’ll also want to know exactly where the damage took place and the date and time of the incident.
Some councils will send a form for you to fill in, while others provide one online, so check with the individual council.
For damage on an A-road or motorway, check if Highways England manages the road your car was damaged on. If it does, you can contact them for compensation on email@example.com or call them on 0300 123 5000.
The chances of getting compensated for a pothole may depend on whether the pothole had already been reported – if the local authority knew about the pothole and didn't repair it, then you’ll be in a stronger position to make a claim.
If the council makes you an offer, bear in mind you can negotiate based on your car’s repair costs.
Report the pothole
Alternatively, you can use the FixMyStreet app. Once you download the app and enter details of the pothole online, FixMyStreet will send the information to your local council on your behalf.
It’s important to report a pothole, even if it hasn’t caused damage to your car or if you don’t intend to claim for compensation. It’s the local council’s responsibility to repair a pothole once it’s been reported and, by reporting it, you can help make the road safer to you and other road users.