How to claim for pothole damage to your car

PotholeAfter a particularly tough winter the country’s roads are in a sorry state. A ‘plague of potholes’ has opened-up the country’s highways and byways, and with a gaping £1billion hole in the repair budget, the situation looks set to get worse.

Claims for pothole damage have soared by 500% compared to last year and the Asphalt Industry Alliance has calculated that every Local Authority would need to spend £90.3 million on repairs to clear the backlog. And worse still it would take 12 years to get the job done.

In a bid to placate angry motorists the government recently announced emergency repair funds totalling £383 million. However, with the volume of local traffic estimated to increase by 40% by 2014 motoring organisations are rightly asking whether it’s time to think about resurfacing, rather than repairing, the country’s roads.

Hitting a pothole can cause serious damage to you and your vehicle. Common problems include: damaged tyres and wheels, steering alignment, cracked axles and shot suspension. If you hit a pothole at high speed you could lose control of your vehicle and the consequences can be fatal.

Most comprehensive car insurance policies provide cover for pothole damage, but considering that you’ll have to pay the excess, and you could lose your No Claims Discount; an insurance claim might not be financially worthwhile.

Instead seek compensation from the relevant authority, either the Highways Agency (for motorways) or the Local Council (for all other roads). Last year Local Authorities paid-out more than £30 million in compensation, with an average payout of £583, so it’s certainly worth making the effort.

Five steps to making a successful claim

Details Count Even if you don’t intend to make a claim you can help prevent accidents by reporting dangerous potholes to the relevant authority. Make a detailed report including as much information as possible, specifically: location, direction of travel and size of pothole. If you have a smartphone take a few pictures to help support your claim.

Written Report Submit your claim in writing and include several quotes for repairs as well as the final repair bill.

Be Persistent The chances are that your claim will be rejected under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, which basically states that the Local Authority can’t be held responsible for a problem they weren’t aware of or that they have taken reasonable measures to rectify. It’s now your job to prove them lacking.

The Clever Bit Consumer rights champions (such as potholes.co.uk) suggest the next best step is to submit a Freedom of Information request to find out how often the road is inspected, when it was last maintained, and whether there have been any previous complaints. If the Local Authority can be proved negligent; you stand a good chance of making a successful claim.

The Last Resort Think twice about getting legal advice; solicitors’ fees quickly add-up and taking a complaint to court could leave you seriously out of pocket.

Image copyright the web project


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