Potential claims arising from damages caused by potholes

Potholes develop when cracks in the road fill with water, which expands when it freezes. Serious road accidents can occur resulting in vehicle damage and personal injury. If your car is damaged or you are injured by a pothole, you may be able to claim compensation. Last year, local Councils paid £22.8m compensation to road users in England and Wales who suffered damage to their vehicles or themselves because of poorly maintained roads (excluding A-roads and motorways which are funded separately by highway agencies).
 
In 2011 the government commissioned a Potholes Review and allocated an extra £200m for local highway authorities citing a “significant increase in the number of potholes on the already fragile local highway network”.
 
According to Which? Magazine the backlog of road repairs in England has grown since 2009, from £53.2m to £61.3m on average per Council. For example, in the North West backlog road repairs has grown from around £25m in 2009 to £60m in 2012. However, the magazine also says that in six of the nine regions, the need for repairs has fallen since its peak in 2011. This means that whilst some regions are reducing the backlog road repairs the remaining regions are struggling and the costs of repairs will continue to increase.
 
If your car is damaged or you are injured by a pothole and you wish to seek compensation, you should be able to claim if you can show that the council knew about the pothole but has not repaired it, or has not followed road maintenance guidelines. Section 58 of the Highway 1980 provides councils with a statutory defence if they can show that reasonable care was taken to “secure that the part of the highway to which the action relates was not dangerous to traffic”. If the incident happened on a motorway or A-road you will need to contact the relevant highways agency and if it occurred on a private road, your claim will be against the road owner. If your claim is rejected you can refer your claim to the small claims court.
 
You can report potholes to your local authority and when making your report include supporting evidence such photos of the pothole and damage to your car. If your claim is rejected you can refer your claim to the small claims court.