Local councils are shelling out thousands on compensation for damage caused by potholes to vehicles. Why not spend that money on actually fixing them?
With the cost of motoring already reaching astronomical heights - petrol, insurance and tax are all steadily on the rise - the last thing a driver needs is the added cost of car repairs caused by pothole damage.
With Council Tax set to rise again in April many people are angry that, despite paying through the nose, local councils are allowing our roads to deteriorate year on year. It has been reported that only £17 per driver is spent on road maintenance in the UK. No wonder some critics have suggested it won't be long before our roads are comparable to those of a 'third world country'.
Why are the roads so bad?
But it is not just the weather that is causing such havoc. Other contributing factors are vastly increased traffic flow, which is putting pressure on roads of all sizes throughout the UK, and the constant digging up of our roads by utility companies. When electricity and water companies perform repairs to their cables and pipes, they tend to simply patch up the road rather than resurfacing it, and this makes them more susceptible to damage.
With the vast profits that these companies make perhaps they should be forced to make proper repairs in future!
What damage is being done?
Driving on a consistently uneven surface can also take its toll on our suspension, steering mechanisms, exhausts and roll bars, which can rattle free with the constant abuse.
How to claim
As a general rule of thumb, if you aim to follow the steps below you won't go far wrong.
- Take a photograph of the pothole and note down its rough size and depth as well as its precise location (make a sketch of the area if you can).
- Report it to your council using the reporting procedure specified on your council's website.
- If the council has not repaired it within a reasonable time (some say around a week is enough time to give) then this should strengthen your case.
- Consider submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to the council or Highways Agency to find out as much as you can about the road and its maintenance history, as this could also strengthen your case.
- Put all your complaints in writing and ensure that all contact with the council is done via letter or email (a phone call can always be denied). In your letter include: a full description of the accident, where and when it was (date and time), your photographs and your sketch plan of the area. Also include a copy of your repair bill for the damage caused and keep copies of all your letters!
If the council makes you an offer you should give it proper consideration even if you are not entirely happy. If you wish to fight on, your next option will be to take court action. Provided your claim is for under £5,000 you can take action in the Small Claims court. You won't need a solicitor and you can issue proceedings online via their MoneyClaim Online system.
Am I likely to get a pay-out?
The table below* details a 'snapshot' of payouts in various counties in the UK.
Number of claims made
Amount paid out in compensation
Start a revolution
If you are successful in your compensation claim, and are feeling particularly altruistic, you could consider returning your pay-out to the council on the proviso that they repair your neighbourhood roads. You will be a local hero!