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?.
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.
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?.