Tuesday 16th December 2014
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Some of you might remember that we wrote a blog on potholes recently entitled "Why don't they fix the potholes?". That blog was the first step in Breakeryard's campaign to highlight the dangers of potholes and put pressure on the Highways Agency, local councils, Transport for London and private companies to take more responsibility for the state of our roads. The best way to target these organisations is to hit them where it hurts - in their pockets!  This blog aims to give you advice on how to make a claim if your car was damaged because of a pothole.

Firstly, it's important to know who to talk to when you want to make a claim. Local councils are responsible for B roads and local roads. The Highways Agency are responsible for motorways and A roads. Roads in Greater London that are marked as 'red routes' fall under the jurisdiction of Transport for London. All private roads and car parks come under the responsibility of the private company that owns that particular area.

In Scotland contact Bear Scotland and Scotland Transerv.  Motorists in Wales need to contact Traffic Wales and those in Northern Ireland should speak to Transport NI.  It doesn't matter who owns the road as they all have a legal duty to maintain the road to a fit standard.

In England and Wales the legislation is listed in the Highways Act 1980. For Scotland it is in the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 and in Northern Ireland, it is the Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993. You should always report potholes to the appropriate authority, especially in case you later need to make a claim. 

Next, let's talk about how to make a claim. A pothole must be at least 40mm deep. You have to prove that the authority was negligent by not repairing the pothole or identifying it quickly enough. Also, you have to prove that it was the pothole that caused the damage. To do this you will have to ask a mechanic to produce a written report for you. 

More often than not potholes create damage to tyres, wheels or axles and you will know it was the pothole as you will hear the damage immediately.  If your car already had a fault and the pothole has made it worse, you can still claim. However, you won't get the full repair costs back. 

Contact the authority to get a claim form, you may be able to download the claim form from their website, so check there first. 

The amount you can claim for depends on the damage to your car and this is usually around £300-£500. If you want to claim for personal injury you should obtain legal advice prior to submitting an official claim. 

You also need to consider if you should tell your insurance company and if you want to make a claim against them.  However, you can't make two claims and you need to think about any effects on your no claims bonuses. If your claim is rejected there is one last place to try and that is the small claims court.

After you know where to go for your claim, it's imperative to collect your evidence. A good place to start is the national code of good practice for highway maintenance, which you can find here. (For more information, contact: https://www.gov.uk/claim-for-damage-to-your-vehicle).

To start, measure the pothole (be safe, though, and don't attempt to do this in a dangerous area such as a busy motorway). Take plenty of photos as well, from multiple angles, and note the potholes exact position.

The next step is to get information from the authority responsible regarding management of their road repairs. This is to see if they have been negligent in any way. To do this, you may have to fill in a Freedom of Information (Act) request.

Once you get this information you will need to read through it carefully to see if the authority failed in its duty in any way. Examine their policy and what inspection and repair work has or has not been carried out. Create a list of all the failings and discrepancies that you have found. This is important, as the authority responsible may attempt to avoid paying you as it could claim that it never knew about the pothole.

As soon as the incident has occurred you need to make your own record of what happened. This includes the part of the car that was hit, your speed, the driving conditions, etc. It's important to be thorough when creating your incident report.

Ask your mechanic to make a log of the damage there is to your vehicle and how the pothole contributed to it. Submit your claim including all the above paperwork. Keep all your information factual, accurate and clear and keep referring to all the evidence that you have gathered in the above steps. 

Reporting cases of dangerous potholes is vital in maintaining our countries roads. The more pressure that is placed on authorities ensures that road safety conditions will be kept to a high standard.

It's one of the most effective ways to encourage greater vigilance from local authorities to keep their roads safe and free from potholes. Especially when you consider that it only costs around £50 to repair a pothole.

The most critical thing about potholes is that they can cause serious injury and even death to road users. An inquest in North Yorkshire in May this year heard how cyclist Martyn Uzzell died on the A65 Settle Bypass at Giggleswick in June 2011. Martyn hit the pothole losing control of his bike and was hit by a Volkswagen Golf killing him instantly.

The local police had alerted North Yorkshire County Council to the presence of the pothole but the message did not go through to the council's highways team. However,  the council did make two unrelated inspections of the pothole but decided not to take further action. One of these inspections was made the day before Martyn's accident. At the inquest the coroner cited the pothole as causing the accident. 

This year an American man was killed in March while riding his motorbike in Minneapolis after his motorbike hit a pothole. In June this year a British man riding a motorbike in Mongolia also hit a pothole and he too died from his injuries.

A survey carried out last year by Britiannia Rescue estimated that there is a pothole for every mile of road in Britain. It also stated that almost one in ten people have suffered damage to their cars in the last 12 months because of poor road services.

Compensation claims regarding potholes have gone up 79% over the last year. Potholes.co.uk state that potholes cause one in ten mechanical failures and cost motorists around £730 million each year in the UK. Potholes are a major cause of axle and suspension failures and this accounts for a third of mechanical issues on UK roads. 

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