Most car pothole damage claims are turned down – here’s how to get yours paid out

1. Collect the evidence

If you’re a motorist looking to make a claim for a repair bill for pothole-related damage, or a cyclist putting in a damage or personal injury claim after hitting one in the road, the first port of call is to make a note of where the pothole is located, the time and date of the incident, and take a photo of the pothole.

A pothole needs to be at least 2 inches deep to be deemed a pothole in the eyes of councils. 

And it’s not just the depth and size of the pothole that councils will try to use to refuse paying out compensation.

Local authorities may defend a claim if they successfully argue that the pothole was not an obvious hazard – or if they were unaware of it, despite having in place a reasonable system of inspection and repair.

To improve your chances of a successful claim, it will help to demonstrate whether the pothole was an obvious danger or not. 

Where possible, take photos at the scene, just in case the council repairs the pothole before you can return to take them.

If you didn’t do this at the time of the incident, you can return to the scene to take pictures.

You should also take a photos of the damage the pothole has caused to your vehicle (or person, if you have been injured). 

If possible, take your car to a garage and ask for a mechanic’s report in writing for the projected cost to fix the issue caused – or if your motor isn’t drivable, phone a reputable repair centre and request a quote.

2. Work out who is to blame

To make a claim for compensation, first you need to know who should pay out. 

If the pothole is on a motorway or main trunk road, the chances are it is a National Highways (formerly Highways England) problem. 

For local roads, you will need to research which council is responsible.

Once you’ve identified the party you need to contact, request a copy of highway maintenance schedules and number of reported incidents on the particular road for the previous 14 days as evidence that the road hasn’t been properly maintained or a reported pothole hasn’t been addressed.

3. Make the claim

You’ll need to issue a formal claim to the local authority or National Highways and most responsible parties will have a template you can request from them.

4. What to do if you do – or don’t – get a compensation offer

After making the claim, you should be notified if compensation is being granted. 

You can still reject the value of the offer if you believe it isn’t sufficient, especially if you have evidence that the pothole had already been reported but the responsible party had not acted to rectify it.

If the council refuses compensation, you can seek legal advice or make a case through the courts. 

However, this could be a time-consuming process and is only likely to be worthwhile if the repair bill is considerable.

5. Final option: Make a claim through your insurance

If you have comprehensive cover, you can claim for pothole damage on your insurance policy. 

However, it’s worth considering the cost of the damage as well as your excess payments and if this action will affect your no claims bonus.