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Potholes: A Growing Problem

16 Apr 2019
It’s every driver’s nightmare. You’re busy concentrating on the road ahead, but between all the traffic, the bad weather and the upcoming roundabout, there’s something you missed. A pothole. By the time you feel that all too familiar shudder up your spine, it’s too late, the damage is done, and through no fault of your own, you’re left with the inconvenience, stress and cost of having to get a repair. The current pothole problem in the UK is so bad that the AA recently declared it ‘a national emergency’. In the Autumn Budget, an extra £420m was promised to councils in England to repair potholes and damaged roads and keep bridges safe and open. However, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) claims that’s not nearly enough to clear a pothole backlog that could take at least 14 years to fix.

Is the pothole problem getting worse?

British motorists currently face a £1.7 billion annual bill to fix vehicle damage caused by potholes. There are even claims that the situation will worsen in the coming years as extreme winter weather conditions become more common and wreak havoc with Britain’s roads. Between April and June last year, just after the ‘Beast from the East’ had struck, the number of breakdowns related to potholes hit a three-year high. Nearly 4,100 vehicles suffered broken springs, damaged shock absorbers or distorted wheels, representing a 15 percent rise on figures for 2017.

What should you do if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole?

Whoever is responsible for the road has a legal duty to maintain it to a fit standard. If it’s not maintained properly and your car is damaged as a result, you should claim for the cost of the repairs. Unfortunately, the process of making a pothole claim is not always a simple one. So, what should you do if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole?
  • Was it really a pothole?
When is a pothole not a pothole? According to many councils, when it’s less than 40mm deep. If your vehicle has been damaged by a shallower hole, you should still make a claim, but it might not be successful.
  • Proving a pothole caused the damage
Hitting a pothole will typically cause damage to a vehicle’s suspension, tyres, wheels or axles. You’ll usually know something is wrong immediately because you’ll hear it. Gathering evidence of the pothole and the damage caused to your vehicle will greatly strengthen your claim:
  • Take closeup pictures of the pothole and put an object such as a coin or newspaper inside the pothole to give a better idea of its depth.
  • Take some mid-range photos of the pothole’s position in the road.
  • Get pictures of the stretch of road including any road signs or local landmarks that pinpoint the pothole’s location.
  • Take pictures of the damage to your car.

Making a claim

Contact whoever is responsible for the road and ask them how you should make a claim. Broadly speaking, councils are responsible for local A roads and B roads, while Highways England looks after major A roads. Highways England’s network map will tell you whether the road is one it is responsible for. Pothole claims are typically made for between £300-£500. Some drivers will successfully claim the entire amount, while others will only receive part of the cost of the repair. If your claim is unsuccessful, consider taking it to the small claims court.

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