/ Motoring

Do you know how to claim for pothole damage?

Has your vehicle or bike been damaged by a pothole? If so, did you make a claim? Our guest, blogger Scott Dixon, talks through how to go about it.

This is a guest post by Scott Dixon. All views expressed are Scott’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.Β 

More than a year into lockdown and with a roadmap (excuse the pun) to lifting restrictions tentatively in progress, many of us will be hitting the roads to catch up with friends and family and travel further afield.

Earlier this year, the BBC revealed that Councils are repairing potholes at the rate of 1 every 19 seconds, but they’re still a growing concern for motorists. According to the Sunday Times, 75% say that they were more concerned about it than they were in 2017. It claims potholes have affected nine in 10 of motorists, with nearly a third saying they have changed their route to work, while 54% have had to brake or swerve sharply to avoid potholes.Β Β 

I feel passionately about this issue, and personally I don’t feel like much progress has been made on making the roads fit for purpose. Motorists are required to have a yearly MOT certificate to ensure their vehicles are roadworthy, but would those standards apply to the roads themselves?

How to claim for pothole damage

Knowing how to claim for pothole damage to your car is becoming increasingly difficult due to many authorities moving to a ‘risk-based’ approach. It can be difficult for motorists to actually win a claim at all, but I do have some tips on how you can have more success – some of which are shared in this new Which? video:

The first obstacle you could be faced with are initial reasons to reject a claim, such as:

🚧 No reports received about the defect before the incident.

🚧 A repair was carried out once the defect was reported but unfortunately this was after the incident.

You may be told that the local authority has a reasonable inspection and maintenance system – you can request proof of that via a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

My 5 tips for successful pothole claims

🚧 1. Take photos ASAP

It’s important to grab photos of the offending pothole as soon as possible as part of your evidence and claim. The photos can prove at a later date that the previous repair was not done to the set criteria and help prove liability.

🚧 2. Report it

You have a duty to report it as soon as possible to the relevant local authority. Do it either by phone or online.

🚧 3. Check to see if it’s been previously reported

Sites such as FixMyStreet and Fill That Hole can be used to check if anyone else has reported the same issue.

🚧 4. Don’t refer to the claim as an accident

This could hinder proving liability. Instead, refer to it as a collision/incident.

🚧 5. Make use of Google Earth/Street View

You can find potholes from space on Google Earth and on Google Street View. Street View has a date stamp, so you can use that as proof that a pothole has been a problem hotspot for years. That in itself could support a Freedom of Information request and the questions you need to ask.

Have you ever tried to make a claim?

Every local authority has a responsibility to inspect the roads on a set timescale and ensure that they’re fit for purpose. If a pothole has been reported then remedied within days then I’d argue that it was clearly dangerous and that the road was not fit for purpose when the damage was caused.

Did you know you can also reopen a claim and appeal it? You have up to six years in England and Wales and five years in Scotland via the Small Claims Court.

The Small Claims Court should be a last resort, and you’ll need to ensure that your claim is watertight to avoid being liable for costs on both sides if you lose, but my advice is not to be afraid of using it.

Have you ever made a claim for pothole damage? Were you successful? Let me know in the comments – I’d be very interested to discuss your experiences.

This was a guest post by Scott Dixon. All views expressed were Scott’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.Β 


The only time I have reported a pothole (which I had seen when walking near home) I received a prompt reply from the council to say that they had inspected it and it was not big enough to merit urgent attention. I went back to measure the size and had intended to ask for details of the council’s standards for assessment, but found that the pothole had been repaired. πŸ™‚

I have never had a tyre or a wheel damaged by a pothole. It seems that those who have low profile tyres are most at risk.

After hitting a hidden pothole in the dark on a very wet day, we made a claim to the County Council Highways Department in 2010 and were asked for the following information:

– Location marked on a map.
– Proof of vehicle ownership, copy of registration document.
– Copy of car insurance certificate.
– Copy of current MOT.
– Date of last service with proof.
– Photos.
– Date and time of incident.
– Weather conditions at the time of the incident.
– Estimate of repairs or replacement.

At the time we used a very good site to confirm our date and time was correct that gave actual rainfall in the area. If it still exists and I find it, I will add a comment below.

There are other sites that give historical weather so it is a good idea to use them. Claims will likely be thoroughly checked to see if the claimant is being truthful, i.e. if you say it was heavy rain but the sun shone all day your claim will be rejected.

It’s worth knowing what information will be needed when submitting a claim, Alfa. Hopefully anyone whose car has been damaged will take photos at the time.

The EXIF data for photos could help provide evidence of the date and time. Taking a screen capture of your position on a map app could also be useful, as evidence of the location.

Phil says:
14 June 2021

When I submitted a claim for pothole damage the council wanted a copy of the receipt for the damaged tyres stating the mileage at which they were fitted, the current mileage of the vehicle and of course pictures of the damage.

Dashcam footage is enormously helpful in these instances.

Charginglemon says:
11 June 2021

Pot holes are annoying enough in a car.. but on a motorbike they are downright dangerous. Portman road is Reading is an absolute shocker – there are so many potholes they have all joined together to form long ruts. Getting a wheel in the rut effectively causes you to go wherever the rut leads you.. often the other side of the road into on-coming traffic. Similarly deep pot holes can send your steering in an unwanted direction or cause you to loose balance.. Its incredibly dangerous, and RBC’s attitude toward the pot holes is terrible – perhaps something to do with the busses that cause them in most cases. They are far to heavy for many of the roads. Bath Road. Oxford Road and any other main road in Reading are in a shocking state, yet the council maintain that none of the holes are big enough to warrant filling?!.. yet up goes the council tax all the same.

I have reported potholes on the county council’s website many times and they have all been repaired soon afterwards. Two weeks ago I reported a cluster on the ring road outside a garden centre — it’s a route we rarely use and the cavities looked quite long-standing. Passing along earlier this week I was pleased to see that a large expanse of the carriageway had been completely repaired and resurfaced with a smooth layer of hot rolled asphalt.

I don’t know why more people don’t report potholes when they see them. We have never needed to make a claim but the advice on doing so is useful.

I believe it is the local highway authority’s insurers who dictate the eligibility specification for repair work, the permitted acceptance of claims up to certain levels, and on the repudiation of claims that exceed their parameters without detailed investigation, hence the need to supply copious information when making a claim. Local councillors will never play any part in supporting a driver making a pothole damage claim – that would contravene the insurer’s terms and conditions and fetter their ability to settle the claim consistently with similar ones.

What can you do when damage occurs over a period of time rather than a one off event. I recently had to have an offside suspension spring renewed as it had broken. My car only has 39k on the clock so there is no way it should of broken at such a low mileage. I cannot recall an event that could have broken it. I am the only driver. Claiming off my insurance is pointless. This will be happening to many vehicles as a result of poor roads.

S Attwater — I don’t think there is any way in which you can make a claim for progressive wear and tear on a vehicle’s suspension. It would be impossible to assess the cause of failure unless there was a particular incident, date and location that might have led to the breakage. The component might have had a manufacturing defect or suffered from a crack that took a long time to develop into a fracture. Another factor that would be difficult to resolve through a claim would be the manner of driving.

Phil says:
4 February 2022

If it’s a European built car the springs are prone to premature failure. I’ve had all four of mine replaced. Did the garage do both sides?

S Attwater – Springs deteriorate as a result of the continuous flexing and eventual failure may not be for an obvious reason. I had one fail when cornering at about 5 mph. As John has said it is wear and tear and both your guarantee and statutory rights exclude claims involving wear and tear unless it is clearly premature. My car has covered less than 70 k miles and like Phil I have had all four replaced. Rust may initiate cracking

There is usually a minute flaw that develops in the spring surface that acts as a stress concentration point and eventually causes a crack to propagate, causing breakage. I have only ever replaced springs on one of my cars, which may suggest poor quality control. These days springs are lighter weight design and support more weight which will be contributory factors to failure. A problem is springs being closer to (wide) tyres so a spring failure can also cause severe tyre damage.

It’s rust that is the main problem: https://www.theaa.com/driving-advice/service-repair/coil-springs-breaking

Somewhere I have a photo showing where the crack had started. Rusting has a lot to do with how much salt the council uses on the roads. Lighter springs do a better job but don’t last as long.

Corrosion (rust) can cause local flaws where stress concentration occurs.

Phil says:
5 February 2022

I wonder what role low profile tyres have. A lot of the shocks and movement that would be absorbed by a normal tyre must get transmitted to the suspension.

I am not aware of any reliable information, Phil, but wheels with low profile tyres are reputed to be more susceptible to pothole damage, which makes sense.

Phil says:
5 February 2022

There’s a lot of good information about the ‘cons’ of low profile tyres including pothole damage.

I am familiar with the lists that are trotted out as the pros and cons of low profile tyres but some of it is difficult to quantify.

In the motoring world it is generally believed that winter tyres are better below 7Β°C but there is no scientific evidence to support the significance of this specific temperature.

I once landed up with lower profile than normal tyres (not low profile by modern standards) thanks to buying a car at a heavy discount. I suspect it was a cancelled order. The ride was not brilliant and replacement tyres were more expensive than standard tyres for that model. I would not want low profile tyres in future.

As far as I am aware the adhesive properties of different tyre compounds are related to temperature, hence winter tyres perform better at low temperatures than β€œsummer” tyres. There are all season tyres which appear to be a good compromise in a country such as the UK where we do not suffer prolonged low temperatures.