Positioned in unavoidable places. Disguised as puddles after a downpour. Make no mistake: potholes are a total nuisance for both motorists and cyclists alike. But as much annoyance as they create, they can also cause a whole heap of damage too. So much so that the total repair bill for pothole incidents is an eye-watering £730 million every year.

If driving over a pothole is enough to affect your tyres, suspension or any other part of your car, however, then you could well be entitled to pothole compensation. And while you might be waiting some time for your local council to get through its backlog of pothole repairs, a little reimbursement certainly softens the blow.

So, what do you need to do? Below, we’ll take a look at how you can claim for pothole-inflicted damages, and how you can better approach potholes so you don’t fall prey to them in the future.

How to spot a pothole in the road

Potholes can’t always be easily spotted, but you can usually recognise them by a hollow in the road. However, in bad weather they can be more difficult to see, especially if they have been filled with rainwater.

You should take extra care when driving so that you can be sure to avoid any potholes in plenty of time.

How do potholes appear in the first place?

Potholes are usually caused by water seeping into existing cracks in the surface of the road. When the moisture freezes, the cracks expand and leaves gaps once the water melts again in warmer weather. The cracks are then broken down by traffic over time.

In some cases potholes can form because previous repairs are rushed and they break down quicker.

What damage can a pothole do to your vehicle?

Hitting a pothole will typically affect the wheels and tyres, but it can also impact the suspension and steering. Potholes can cause punctures, leading to a loss of air pressure and grip which can be dangerous, especially if you haven’t noticed it straight away. Potholes might also cause tread separation or sidewall bulges.

Potholes might even bend or crack the wheel trim, which can also put additional pressure on the tyre and potentially cause a blowout.

Driving through a pothole could go as far as misaligning the car’s suspension. This could result in mishandling, or in some cases it could cause broken ball joints or damaged struts and shocks.

How do I make a pothole claim?

If a pothole has banged up your bodywork or damaged your suspension, here’s what you should do:

Check the damage

If you think that a pothole may have damaged your car, then pull over in a spot that’s safe for you to do so. Inspect your wheels, tyres and bodywork for any visible damage. Remember to keep an ear out for any strange vibrations your car might be making, as well as how the steering feels and whether the car is veering to one side.

man looking under his bonet

If there are any problems that need seeing to immediately, then take your car to a garage as soon as you can.

Gather your evidence

If any visible damage has been done to your car, then be sure to take pictures of it.

Next, take pictures of the pothole, showing its depth if possible. Chances are you don’t have a tape measure on you, so try including something like a road sign, lamppost or even your own car to show its scale. You could always return to the pothole, measuring tape in hand, and use that to record its depth too.

You should also make a note of the following:

-The date and time of the incident

-Any witnesses and their contact details

-The location of the pothole on the road (and the name of the road)

-Any damage done to your car

-Further damage that your garage visit subsequently revealed

Report the pothole

It’s important to report a pothole if you come across one, so that it can be fixed and might prevent future accidents or damage. Even if you aren’t making a claim or your own car hasn’t been damaged, it’s still helpful to report it to the local authority or government.

Get repair quotes

It’s a good idea to get quotes from three different garages before you get anything fixed. Also, you should keep all quotes, bills and garage receipts in one place and make copies of them to help you in your claim.

Additionally, it’s always worth calling the council responsible for maintaining the road to check whether they might reimburse you if you have any damage repaired.

Make your pothole claim

Contact the local authority you reported the pothole to. Whether you write to them or call them, make it clear that you’re making a claim for pothole compensation. Be sure to pass on the following:

-A full description of the incident

-When and where it happened

-Any repairs you’ve undertaken

You should also include copies of photos, witness details, quotes for repairs and other details you deem necessary.

pothole in road

What happens after I’ve made a pothole claim?

Your local authority is obligated to respond to your claim within 30 days. If not, you should contact them again through their claims department. At which point, they’ll respond in one of the following ways:

-The authority accepts your claim and covers all your repair expenses

-The authority offers a partial settlement

-The authority rejects the claim in its entirety

What are the chances your claim will be accepted? It all depends on how strong your case and evidence is. If you reported the pothole and have evidence that the damage was caused by you driving over it, then you should be entitled to compensation.

It can take a few months to receive this, however. And if you believe you’re entitled to more than a partial settlement, or you think your claim has been incorrectly rejected, you’ll have to persist.

What happens if my pothole claim is rejected?

As a first line of defence, the council will typically refuse all claims from the outset, by quoting Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980. Section 58 states that the council took all reasonable steps to maintain the road, and that potholes were dealt with in a timely manner (even when they know it isn’t true). They do this in the hope that damage claimants will give up at this point.

But if you’re made of sterner stuff and want to pursue things further, it’s up to you to play detective and determine whether or not the council has done what they stated under Section 58. You’ll more than likely have to use Freedom of Information requests to work this out, which can be time-consuming and tricky. The warranty industry-funded site Potholes.co.uk should be able to help out, however.

car narrowly missing pothole

What to do when encountering potholes?

Whether you’re successful in your claim or not, the best way to deal with potholes is knowing what to do when one comes into view while you’re driving. Try the following if you find yourself on a road that’s full of potholes:

Keep your distance

Maintain your distance between your car and the vehicle in front. This way you’ll be able to see any upcoming potholes well in advance.

Pay attention to the road

Staying alert and being aware of your surroundings is key, especially in wet weather when potholes might be hidden. If you need to change course in order to avoid potholes, then keep an eye out for traffic or other pedestrians before you do so.

Watch your speed

Don’t forget about your speed either. Driving over potholes at speed can end up doing more damage to your vehicle. At the same time, avoid braking when driving over a pothole. Braking causes the vehicle to tilt forward which can place more pressure on your front suspension.

If you do have to drive over a pothole, then do so with care; let the wheel flow freely into the hole so you minimise causing any damage.

Grip your steering wheel properly

When you find yourself on a road with potholes, be sure to hold the steering wheel in the proper ’10 to 2’ hand position. If not, you might end up losing control of your vehicle.

Check your tyre pressure regularly

Keeping your tyres at the recommended pressure can help with traversing potholes too, so be sure to check them as regularly as you can. You can find the recommended tyre pressure in your vehicle’s handbook and on the label located inside the driver’s side door frame or door post.

How to report a pothole

As mentioned, it’s important to report any potholes you come across. The process for reporting might be different depending on where in the UK you live. You can use the UK government’s platform to report a pothole.

If the pothole is on a motorway or major A road in England, you can get in touch with National Highways.

For any potholes or similar road defects in Scotland, you can use the government website, and for those in Northern Ireland you should visit NIDirect.

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