We’ve all been there, heading into the next MOT or car service thinking the vehicle is going to, as usual, sail through with flying colours before the dreaded “we need your permission before we…” call comes through from the garage. It’s at that moment you suddenly remember the huge pothole that you couldn’t avoid on the way in and the frustration sets in.
Sometimes hitting potholes is just an unavoidable frustration of modern British motoring, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer in silence. You could be eligible for compensation for any damages caused to your car from a poor road surface. As part of our ongoing series of Car Care here at Scrap Car Comparison, let us talk you through all you need to know about claiming for pothole damages.
What do I do if I hit a pothole?
If you are unfortunate enough to go through a pothole, at any speed, making sure you check your car thoroughly is one of the very first ports of call for you:
- Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so – the easiest and safest way to give your car a thorough once over is to pull over and have a good look around the exterior of your car
- Check your steering – if your steering wheel doesn’t centre properly or the car begins pulling to one side, then your next trip should be straight to the garage.
- Check your tyres – potholes are one of the most common reasons behind punctures, and if you’ve hit a particularly bad one, you’ll want to make sure none of your tyres have suffered as a result.
- If you feel any vibrations in the vehicle after the impact, you should head straight to the garage as there could be some significant damage.
Will the council pay for damage from a pothole?
If your local council is responsible for the maintenance of the road in which your car was damaged, then you may be able to claim compensation from the council. To stand a better chance of receiving any compensation you’ll need as much detail as possible – including where and when the incident happened and exactly how much the repair bill was.
How do I report a pothole?
In order for you to be able to even consider the possibility of claiming for any damages from a pothole, you must make sure that you have some evidence to back up your claim, otherwise your case will be thrown out almost as soon as it arrives.
- Gain Photographic Evidence – Taking notes, or better yet, and if safe to do so, photographs of the pothole, will be very helpful for those in charge of maintaining the roads to keep the roads safe for all users. Photos should show clearly where the pothole is in the road and give a good impression of its size.
- Measure the pothole – Being able to provide the depth of the pothole will help your claim, and when taking photos to prove said depth, adding objects for context – whether a ruler or another external object – can help provide this information.
- Ask witnesses for help – Your claim will be much stronger if you are able to provide a witness statement, as then there is more than just one voice against your local council. Ask them to describe the pothole and the damage they saw it cause to your car.
- The majority of roads will be looked after by your local county council, although major roads will fall under the remit of National Highways. You can read all about how to report a pothole here.
Should I repair my car after I hit a pothole?
Even if you plan on claiming off the council for the damage caused to your car, getting your car repaired yourself will be a priority. Unless you have a specific reason for going to a certain garage (such as a service plan or dealer relationship), make sure you shop around to get the very best quote possible for the work you require.
Once the car has been repaired, make sure you keep a note of all receipts and any and all correspondence you have with the garage surrounding the damage and repairs as they will all prove handy when it comes to evidence for your claim.
How do I make a claim for pothole damage?
Now you have all of your evidence to hand, including details of the pothole and any receipts after the damages have been repaired, it’s time to send your claim off. While most councils will have slightly different processes, the general idea will remain the same across the nation.
- Provide documentation for the vehicle
Your council will only be prepared to discuss any potential claims with you if you can prove your car was legally on the road at the time of the incident – this includes proof of ownership, valid insurance and a copy of its latest MOT certificate.
- Can you prove the council were negligent?
Councils are protected by The Highways Act of 1980 under section 58, which states that it is an acceptable defence if the council can prove that it had taken all of the necessary steps to ensure the road was in a safe state. The council is also protected in the event of not knowing the severity of the pothole, or if they could not have been reasonably expected to have repaired the road before the incident occured.
- Have you reported the defect?
If the pothole has not been reported before the claim is made, then most councils will not process the claim any further, and a copy of your own report of the pothole may be required as evidence for your claim.
- Can you prove the road caused the damage?
If there are any outside factors that could have caused damage to your car, such as light levels or weather conditions, then this could also be used against your claim, and if you have no hard evidence that your damage was caused by a road defect, you are highly unlikely to be successful.
Once you have been through all the four questions above, you will have an idea as to whether your claim is likely to be successful or not, although you will need to be confident that the answer to all four is yes before making your claim.
What happens if my claim is rejected?
If you feel your claim has been unfairly rejected, then you do have the option of appealing the verdict. By law all councils must have a system for inspecting and repairing roads, which details how often which roads are inspected and also outlines parameters for how bad any damage has to be before it’s repaired and how quickly repairs need to be done. If your claim is rejected you can ask to see the council’s reports from these inspections and try claiming again with this new information.If your damage is on the pricier side, however, you may wish to speak to your own insurers or even seek legal advice.
Be prepared, though, that this may not be a quick process and you may need to be persistent in getting things sorted. There is no set time for these claims to be dealt with, and it has been known for pothole claims to rumble on for months.
Has a pothole brought the end of your car’s life that little bit closer? Instead of working towards yet another pricey trip to the garage to get it back on the road, why not get in touch with our friendly advisors at Scrap Car Comparison and allow us to secure you a tidy sum of money instead? With gaining a quote a quick and easy process through our handy online quote generator, why not get started today and see just how much your scrap car might be valued at.