20th December 2019
A pothole is a defect in the road that can cause severe danger to travelling vehicles. They can occur for several reasons, though the most common is when water seeps into the road surface and freezes, causing it to crack.
Many councils only acknowledge a hole is a pothole if it has a depth of 40mm or more. While those who hit holes in the road that are shallower than this can try to claim for any damage caused, it will be a tougher job to convince the authority that’s responsible for the road to make a payout.
If you hit a pothole and it causes damage, you need to be able to prove that the pothole was the reason. It’s likely that you will immediately notice any issues, and if it is safe to do so, you should pull over to a safe place and then gather evidence. If you take your car to be fixed, a car mechanic should also be able to put in writing that the damage was caused by a pothole, which will help support your claim.
If your vehicle already had a fault and hitting the pothole worsened the issue, it’s still possible to make a claim, though probably only for partial repair costs. In this guide, we have outlined everything you need to know about what to do if you hit a pothole and the next steps.
Hitting a pothole can cause a range of damage to a vehicle, depending on how hard you hit it. Minor damage may affect the tyres or steering alignment. However, these costs are generally small, and it may not be worth your while claiming.
If the vehicle is travelling at a higher speed, potholes can cause more extensive damage, and there is also an increased risk that the driver could lose control and have an accident.
You may hear a noise when you hit a pothole or notice a vibration or that the steering wheel becomes resistant and pulls to one side. If any of the above occurs, it is crucial to get the car checked out as soon as possible as the quicker any faults are fixed, the safer your vehicle will be, and this could minimise further damage and expense too.
If you have hit a pothole, you need to find out who to report it to promptly. The sooner you can do this, the sooner the pothole can be repaired and ensure that other drivers do not suffer the same fate. Calling it in as soon as the incident occurred will also help your claim later down the line, and regardless of whether your application is successful, it’s always the right thing to do to help maintain general road safety and protect fellow drivers.
You’ll need to find out what road you are on by checking the road name or a map or sat nav. You’ll then have to research who is responsible for maintenance of that particular stretch. It could be the local council, Highways England, Transport for London or another body. Once you’ve contacted them, you can ask for the claim forms to be sent, or you may be able to complete them online.
It is a legal requirement for those responsible for the road to maintain it so vehicles can travel on it safely. Fixing dangerous potholes is part of this. The amount you can claim for depends on how much damage your vehicle has suffered, it may be your claim can be for a partial or full amount. If you were injured as a result of hitting the pothole, you should seek advice from a personal injury lawyer.
You can find the relevant legislation regarding road maintenance in Parts 42-58 of the Highways Act.
There are several steps to take when attempting to make a claim for a pothole. These include:
Gathering as much evidence as possible. If you can, measure the pothole, make a note of the time and date, find out your precise location, and note the damage to the car. Take pictures of everything, and if there are any witnesses, try to exchange contact details with them.
Maintain a record of damage to your car. Further damage may become apparent later. If you take your car to a garage, then you can get a full check, and they will be able to give you an estimate of the cost of any repairs too.
Try a fast claim first. A fast application is one that is made to the local authority responsible for the road. This is the quickest and most straightforward way to get your money back. However, if you are unsuccessful, there are other options.
Make a full claim. If your fast claim was rejected, you could make a full claim. This process is more lengthy and complicated though there are template letters available and lots of online guidance to help you.
If, after submitting your full claim, you are still unsatisfied with the result, you can take your request to the small claims court.
Getting your car repaired if it has suffered damage after hitting a pothole means that you can claim with a firm figure of the costs you’ve paid out. Having a mechanic agree in writing that a pothole caused the damage can also help increase the likelihood of your claim being successful.
If your car has been damaged because you hit a pothole, the team at Coles Automotive can assess the damage, and repair your vehicle so you can make a claim. Get in touch with our experienced mechanics today.