/ Motoring

Have you claimed compensation for pothole damage?

Large pothole

Here we go again. A bit of ice and frost and our roads are opening up to compete for top spot in the national biggest pothole competition. Has a pothole ever damaged your car? Did you claim compensation?

I reckon my road has a good chance of gaining top spot – I counted three in less than 100 metres on my way to work this morning.

I even saw a woman crouching next to one and measuring it with a tape measure while she took a photo. I couldn’t see how wide it was measuring but it was definitely BIG.

As a regular car driver and cyclist it shocks me how many potholes there are. Hitting one or having to swerve to avoid another is no laughing matter.

Not alone in my pothole frustrations

Our latest survey certainly suggests I’m not alone in my frustration with potholes. We surveyed 2,000 drivers in February and found that nearly 70% have hit a pothole in the last two years, and a third of these sustained vehicle damage.

However, only two thirds of drivers who reported damage made a claim for compensation. Four in 10 of these drivers didn’t claim compensation because they didn’t know they could. The same number said they couldn’t face the hassle of making a claim.

More than half of all claims were awarded compensation, so it’s definitely worthwhile pursuing a claim. I’m sure the woman I saw measuring a pothole was preparing to make a compensation claim judging by her impressive diligence, but clearly not all drivers take the same track.

Have you spotted more potholes on roads in your local area? Have you ever hit one? If so, did you try to claim compensation?


We have claimed several times for warped alloys, chipped and cracked windscreens all because of the bad state of our roads. Pictures of the pothole or loose chippings and copies of the repair bills have all been settled eventually. The cost of claims must far outweigh the cost of repairing the pothole so it seems rather negligent of councils not to fix them.

I would like to see a much higher standard of repair when it comes to potholes. How often do you see a man with a bucket and his boot heel? Within weeks the gaping hole is back again.

If the hole was lined with bitumen glue, the tarmac filler properly compacted and the edges sealed, the repair would last a long time saving councils a lot of money and making our roads much safer.


I agree with you on the poor quality of repair work. Highway authorities have put this work out to contractors who manage the whole system from gathering defect reports to rectification and final inspection. A sample might be inspected by the council’s engineer after they have been done but without having seen the original hole and seen how the repair was carried out it’s not a very reliable quality check. Road surfaces perform best where there is an unbroken substructure. The very existence of a pothole and the break-out of the asphalt or bitumen + top dressing surface coating indicates some rupturing of the underlying roadstone’s integrity and this needs to be restored if a repair is to hold. Some excavation and under-cutting is essential before backfilling and compaction followed by application of the new top coat with sealed edges as Alfa says.

A country main road near us that carries a fair amount of commercial and agricultural traffic suffered from multiple potholes over a short section two or three years ago. It was patched up fairly quickly because it was hazardous but although that was supposed to be the final reinstatement it soon failed again and a temporary speed limit was imposed because the repair had actually made matters worse. Ultimately, a much larger part of the road had to be dug out and reconstructed to a substantial depth, one-way working with traffic signals had be implemented, and a whole new top-dressing had to be applied over the entire stretch. So far as I know the county council made the original contractor pay for the reconstruction but the disruption and lost time is never recovered and any minor damage to vehicles from the defective road surface and loose chippings is probably not pursued. Moreover repair work rectification must consume labour and material resources that could be more usefully deployed elsewhere and impact on the overall maintenance programme. I am surprised that the insurance companies that meet claims for pothole damage don’t take a more interventionist line and insist on higher standards of highway repair and preventive maintenance in order to mitigate losses. They probably just keep raising their premiums that are recharged to residents through the council tax.

judith hickson-ridley says:
5 March 2015

I have tried for over two, yes two years to claim for pothole damage to my car and every time they have either lost the claim or lost the photos or my claim didn’t exist even though I have a reference number from them. I even asked the councillor for my ward to help me and he over the space of a year has kept telling me that its not in his ward so he cant help. I have asked this councillor on numerous occasions if he is in actual fact my councillor but all he keeps saying you will have to go to a solicitor. so where do the ordinary people on the street go?


You certainly don’t need to go to a solicitor. It sounds as though your local councillor is not interested or has some reason why he won’t take it up officially. There’s no point in wasting any more time going along the political path. I think you should write to the head of the council’s finance department – they probably handle all insurance claims – and mark it as an official complaint to be dealt with in accordance with the council’s declared public complaints procedure[you can probably look this up on their website]. The next step after that if you do not get a satisfactory response is to take it up with the Local Government Ombudsman. The Ombudsman can dictate a remedy; even if an insurance claim fails, the maladministration of your claim requires redress.

wilma says:
5 March 2015

I tried to make a claim a couple of years ago, my wheel buckled. I put my life in danger measuring the pot hole for the requested photographs only to be told I was obviously lying. I was so upset I didn’t pursue it – which was probably their aim.


Let’s hope now the recession is on its way out more money will be made available by councils to properly repair roads. It has to come from somewhere. You could always look at what your council spends its money on – from senior staff salaries to consultants and bottled water for example – to see whether they have got their priorities right.


I would like to see prompt action to fill in potholes and a better standard of workmanship to ensure that the repairs are not short lived.

I believe car manufacturers have made problems for motorists by switching from steel to alloy wheels, which are more fragile, and fitting very low profile tyres on some models. And if you do damage a wheel, there may be no spare in the boot these days.

DibDob says:
6 March 2015

My mum’s wheel was damaged in a pothole and the council form in order to claim was ridiculous. It wanted so many intrusive details, including your National Insurance number, that were clearly unnecessary and designed to put people off. They also wanted a photo, but it was dark and raining so there wasn’t one. Mum just filled out the bits she was prepared to disclose and sent in a stiffly-worded letter – we were amazed when she got the refund. We were also helped by the fact that the hole had already been reported on one of those websites which collate the details and forward them on, so we knew they had been notified and couldn’t pretend otherwise. So my advice is – persist!