Pothole problem: new report shows it’s getting worse. Read how to claim

pothole problem
An all-to-familiar sight on England’s roads. Read how to claim for the damage (Picture iStock/kozmoat98)

We may not be driving much at the moment but after the warm wet winter, the pothole problem for drivers is still a motoring headache.

A new report has revealed that road maintenance budgets in England have fallen; there are now fewer roads than last year described as being in ‘good’ structural condition; and the rising backlog of repairs means billions of pounds are still needed to bring local roads in England up to scratch.

What were the survey’s main findings?

The 2020 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey polls councils in England and Wales. It found on average, each local authority in the country needs an extra £4.9 million a year to maintain its roads to target conditions. That’s up by £1m per authority since 2019.

Overall, £11.14 billion is needed to return our roads to a level that would enable cost-effective rather than purely reactive maintenance going forwards. That’s up by 14 per cent on last year. And compared with 2019, there are 7240 fewer miles of roads reported to be in ‘good’ structural condition (with 15 years or more of life remaining). Compared with last year, there are 1100 more miles of roads classed as ‘poor’ (less than 5 years’ life remaining).

How to claim for pothole damage

The authorities that look after our roads are legally obliged to maintain them to a safe standard. And that means fixing potholes when they appear. Hitting a pothole can cause hundreds of pounds worth of damage to a car. The impact can puncture tyres, wreck wheels and shatter suspension parts.

pothole problem
Potholes can cause serious damage to a tyre that could end up with a blow-out (Picture iStock/Toa55)

Prove it was the pothole

If a pothole has inflicted serious harm on your car, you may well know instantly because a tyre will deflate. Otherwise you must prove the pothole caused the damage so you need proof. If possible, stop as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Don’t stop on motorways or get in the way of speeding traffic. But if you can do so safely, photograph the pothole and the damage it has done to your car. It’ll help your cause. Again, if you can, measure the hole and use something to show the scale of the damage to the road, perhaps a bank card or the car’s user manual. If the hole is more than 40mm deep, then you have good grounds to claim.

Why claim?

There are two important points here. Reporting the pothole will encourage the authority managing the road to fix it which will prevent other road users suffering damage. You also want to be reimbursed for the money that it cost to fix the damage to your car. But be mindful that claiming can be a long-winded, time-consuming and frustrating process with no guarantee of success.

What to claim for?

Ideally, you’ll be able to show the council how much you want them to reimburse you for. It might be a tyre, a wheel, suspension repairs, or the whole lot. Whatever it is, go to a garage and get a written quotation for the work. If it’s work that needs doing urgently, you can get it done. Claiming can take weeks so they can’t expect you to wait until they’ve processed it.

How to claim

pothole problem
Hitting a big pothole can be an expensive business (Picture iStock/kozmoat98)

You must show that the authority managing the road was negligent. That means it either didn’t inspect the road according to its own guidelines, or knew about the pothole but didn’t fix it as quickly as it should have. That’s why it’s best to put your claim together swiftly with precise times and locations of the incident backed by photographic evidence.

If it’s a local authority-owned road, most will have their own claims process, probably with a form they’ll furnish you with.

What are the likely outcomes?

There are three possible outcomes. They’ll either pay the full amount, a partial amount or reject your claim. One thing’s for sure: claiming for pothole damage isn’t designed to help you replace seriously worn tyres with new ones, therefore you may only be offered a partial amount of the repair costs. If this is the case, and you think it’s a reasonable amount, it might be worth accepting it to save further time and stress.

The authority may dismiss your claim instantly so you’ll need to submit a Freedom of Information request to show that the authority didn’t follow its own guidelines. If you believe the authority’s guidelines are lax, check with the Well-maintained Highways Codes of Practice.

Should you still not get anywhere, feel really aggrieved and believe you have a strong case with plenty of evidence to back it up, take it to the small claims court.

17 comments on “Pothole problem: new report shows it’s getting worse. Read how to claim

  1. Hazel Pendry 28/08/2020 8:11 PM

    I understand in Bucks if the authorities have checked with in a year you can’t claim- is this correct ? Hazel

    • Guy bagley 29/01/2021 5:29 PM

      I made a claim to bucks, they claim main routes are inspected every month, if you damaged your car on a pothole they claim they’re not responsible if they didn’t know about it, so the road defect needs to be logged on fix my street,

      Bucks allow 10 days for a repair to take place, so if the defect has been reported via fix my street for the next 9 days you can damage your vehicle and they can get away with it….if after 10days of a filed fix my street report a repair has still not been done and you damage your car then and only then will they investigate your claim, Buckinghamshire roads are awful, they’re not maintained and the council are not fit for purpose

  2. DC MacGregor 28/08/2020 8:35 PM

    Pot Holes…..!
    Why England only??
    What about Scotland, Information is biased….

  3. Jacqui 28/08/2020 9:50 PM

    Also note that County and Unitary Authorities are the Highway Authorities not District or Borough Councils.

  4. Eric Hampton 29/08/2020 7:40 AM

    I have been writinģ to Glasgow City Council since Dec 2019. I have good evidence but they won’t pay. I am looking for £100 ( for 1 tyre). My car also failed MOT 6 months later ‘cos of steering.I also have a witness in my car at the time.

  5. Brian Amass 29/08/2020 9:14 AM

    The contractors who repair the roads should be more accountable for the quality of their work, I don’t think they can be inspected during or after, how often do some of the repairs fail within a year?
    Very often a repair is not big enough for the damage, often you see areas marked out for repair and wonder why the damage outside the markings do not qualify.
    Contractors are paid for the meterage they cover, the will get paid for the damage outside the area next year.

  6. Paul Rice 29/08/2020 9:38 AM

    8 months ago my wife hit a pothole, front spring and ripped the tyre,Hereford council was claimed against , photo sent and detals another
    3 week’s later pothole still there and nothing done,denied liability cost to us for repair £140 + Shame on them???

  7. Colin Aldridge 30/08/2020 12:53 PM

    welcome advice. I’ll keep it on the back burner… just in case.

  8. Stewart Cairns 30/08/2020 8:39 PM

    Very helpful. Thank you.

  9. Anthony Jackson 30/08/2020 10:31 PM

    I went down what I thought was a sink hole not a pot hole I have never before experienced such a bang to my vehicle. I was driving on the M4 I must of been driving on the motorway starting from the Heathrow section then between 6 to 15 miles on and heading west at night. There were no motorway lights just the bollards in the road with the yellow lights on top flashing and moving all cars over. A little while later we were taken off the motorway and driving through Slough the faster I went the more the vehicle juddered and the acceleration wasn’t right I looked over the steering wheel to see the engine management light was on I got back on the motorway pulled up on the hard shoulder and walked some distance back to an orange SOS box to get my position on the motorway then rang Green Flag to come and pick me up I had to sit in my vehicle and travel on the back of the pick up to the next nearest service station. The mechanic connected his lap top to the engine and said it had gone into safe mode because the computer thinks the vehicle had been in an accident he reset it then sent me on my way. He said if I broke down further up he would catch up with me I was only doing 60mph when I got to Bristol the Engine management light came on but the mechanic had stayed on the M4 going home to Wales so I carried on but only doing 50mph I arrived at my destination at Bridgewater at 03.55 am even though I had left my address in Essex at 20.00pm a journey that should of taken about 4 hours and 15 minutes ended up taking nearly eight hours I had to be up at 07.15am to hire a vehicle from Bristol. When I got back home to Essex I had to put the vehicle in two separate garages the damage in the end just under £1,400. The day I went to Bridgewater I had had the vehicle MOT’D whilst at work then picked the vehicle up Taxed it and insured it and signed up for Green Flag Then Left for Bridgewater.This all took place on the 22nd April this year I am a front Line NHS worker this is why I could travel I was moving my partner into the house I had bought on the 3rd April in West Wales as she would of become made homeless if she didn’t move. Do you think I have a claim?

  10. Marilyn Davis 31/08/2020 3:39 AM

    How to claim dameage to my front suspension on a speed ramps. On a Ford Fiesta on a 07 plate. We have 10 speed ramps leading to our shopping centre in Telford ( TF3 2HA ) and we take our time in driving over the ramps. Due to narrow wheel base. Hi performance
    Cars like BMW, etc just fly over the speed ramps driving more than 30 mph. Our repairs bill was £600.00
    But that includes mot due to the lock down and three new tyres. Plus
    Telford and Wrekin council have two different colour speed ramps one in orange and the other in black.
    I have photos from under the Bonnet
    Were the front suspension is about to come through the bonnet.

  11. neil swainbank 31/08/2020 7:54 AM

    very good reading thankyou

  12. Jeanne Chamberlain 31/08/2020 11:07 AM

    thankyou, very useful information.
    I had a puncture because of a pothole some months ago, but didn’t know what I could do, other than get a new tyre.
    therefore didn’t claim.

    will remember this if ever it happens again (hope it doesn’t though)

  13. Mick Day 31/08/2020 4:04 PM

    Thanks good info.

  14. P Selini 02/09/2020 1:57 PM

    This is an interesting problem. I tried to make a claim for a new tyre and you are correct it is a long winded process and indeed frustrating. I photographed the pothole and documented everything and submitted it to the local authority. They do have a separate department and an out sourced legal liaison firm of solicitors. After the claim was rejected. I requested details of the maintenance schedule which was again outsourced to Amey in this case and I received lots of spreadsheets showing when the last check was made and there is a column for observations. Not surprising the log showed the road had been checked only a short while before and found to be in an acceptable condition. As the spreadsheet was an open one it clearly allows the dates and observations to be changed at will so the end result is that few claims will be met. After this conclusion I gave up!

  15. D J Groom 29/10/2020 10:53 AM

    My son had a tyre and wheel damage on the M25 so could not stop. I am forwarding your recomendations to him . Thank you.
    Regards DJG

  16. Joanbrown 16/01/2021 9:04 AM

    Think its time road tax should be scrapped near me roads are dangerous just partexed my 2year old car with only 32k miles. iwas offered £12000 my car looked immaculate after underneath inspection. All alloys damagedo two tyres iner walls bubbled offside suspension damaged. Dealer wants £1500 for damages I do have photo of damage and condition of road i must stress no scuffs scatches on outer car on vehicle.even alloy wheeles.for a 2year old car the damage is within 12 months of vehicle service government should be accountable they rake in Billions of pounds from motoristsb

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