It's fair to say that many of Britain's roads are not in the best of shape, and with another harsh winter rumoured to be on the cards, motorists up and down the country will face pothole peril. At low speeds, tyres, wheels and steering alignment can be damaged. At high speeds, severe damage could occur, or worse still, you could lose control of the vehicle.
If your car ends up in the garage as a result of hitting a pothole, you could be owed compensation to help pay for the repair costs, so here's how to get started.
Even if your car hasn't suffered as a result of potholes in the road, you should always report them to the relevant council or highways agency. Many local authorities allow you to do this online, and it not only helps other motorists, but could make a big difference if you do suffer damage. The Highway Authority has a statutory defence and cannot be held liable for a defect they do not know about, so if it hasn't been reported or their own road condition surveys haven't picked it up, your claim could be affected.
Even if you are unsure as to how much damage has been done, evidence of the offending hold will really help your case. Note its position, including road names and numbers, direction of travel, and whether it is on a blind corner or hidden from view. If possible, take photographs of the pothole, both close up and showing the location, but only if it is absolutely safe for you to do so. If that's the case, it can help to place an everyday item alongside the hole as a reference to size. Otherwise, try to measure the width and depth.
Before you rush into anything, check whether the local authority is keeping its end of the bargain in terms of road maintenance and inspection. A copy of the national code of good practice for highway maintenance can be downloaded from www.ukroadsliaisongroup.org, and you are well within your rights to submit a Freedom of Information Act to the relevant council or highways agency to find out how often the road is inspected and maintained.
If the council has a system in place to regularly inspect and repair roads, they may initially reject a claim under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980.
Making a claim
If your vehicle requires repairs as a result of pothole, get a number of quotes, and be sure to keep all quotes, invoices and receipts, copies of which can be used to support your claim.
Then write to the relevant council, detailing the defect, damage to your car and how much you have paid out to fix it. No matter how angry you may be, it is important to put together a calm and professional claim. Flying off the handle at a council worker will only damage your chances of success!
Few of us really want to go to Court, and that includes local authorities. If the relevant council makes an offer, try to negotiate. It may be that you have to accept slightly less than you claimed for, and do remember that such things take time to be processed, so be patient.
Have you claimed for pothole damage? Tell us about your experience below...