How to claim for pothole damage

Harriet Meyer / 09 February 2015

Britain’s roads are plagued by potholes - but you may be entitled to compensation if your car suffers damage from hitting one.

Whichever authority controls the road has a legal responsibility to maintain this to a safe standard.

If you believe it’s in a bad state of repair, consider whether they should cough up.

The process of claiming compensation can seem complicated but it needn’t be. Here is a basic guide:


Reporting the incident

If you hit a pothole, make sure to note the time and date of the incident, and the exact location

Vitally, gather any evidence you might need to support your case. Photograph and measure the hole with a ruler or measuring tape to give an idea of size. Measure the width and depth and make a note of this.

Make your report as accurate as possible - over-stating the size of the hole won’t help your case.

You could even draw a quick outline of the area to show the location of the pothole. If there is more than one this can prove particularly useful, to identify the exact one you hit.

Once you have all the evidence, send the relevant authority a letter with details of the cost of the damage. As a general rule this will be the local authority for local and B roads, or the Highways Agency, for motorways and A roads – but check online for more information.

Read our guide to appealing parking tickets.


If you are rejected…

Take your case to the next stage by sending the authority a letter marked "Freedom of Information Act - Request for Information".

Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, you are able to ask for any information that is held by a council about a road and the safety inspections of it.

This includes requests for:

  • Dates of safety inspections on the road over the two years before your incident.

  • Details of defects found in safety inspections in that period.

  • How safety inspections are undertaken. Are they walked or driven? What is the speed of the inspection vehicle and the number of people in the vehicle?

  • The ongoing frequency of carriageway safety inspections.

  • Information of all complaints relating to the road received in the preceding two years.

Getting answers to these queries is important, as you’ll need them to make your claim. Under section 58 of the Highways Act, the authority does not have to pay compensation if it can show it has taken reasonable measures to ensure potholes are found and dealt with swiftly.

Finally, if you are rejected again and believe you have a valid claim, demand that it’s reconsidered. Unless the answers show the authority regularly inspects the road and has a plan for such inspections, you should be entitled to compensation.

If you are unable to claim compensation from the authority responsible for the road, you may be covered by your car insurance policy - check with your insurer.

Saga covers pothole and accidental damage.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.