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Potholes are a very common sight on UK roads and the problem inevitably gets worse in winter. Potholes are usually caused by water seeping into cracks in the road surface, freezing temperatures then cause the water to freeze and it expands, breaking open the tarmac. The warmer weather then causes the ice to thaw and the pothole is exposed. The repeated freeze-thaw/wet-dry cycle makes the pothole situation more problematic, and cash-strapped councils simply do not have the means to inspect and repair every one of them.

Potholes can cause damage to not only vehicle wheels, tyres and suspensions but can also cause bodily harm, particularly to riders of push bikes and motorbikes.

First and foremost, you should always report a dangerous pothole to your local council or highways agency regardless of whether you intend to make a claim.

If you are unfortunate enough to have sustained damage to your vehicle and/or bodily injury, then the first thing you should do is collect evidence. Please check that this can be done safely beforehand given the fact the pothole is likely to be in a road.

  1. Take pictures at the scene where safe to do so
  2. Take a note of the time and date
  3. Take a note of the name of the road and the location of the pothole on the road (e.g. On the road in front of house number x, or in front of a shop, etc)
  4. Measure the pothole if safe to do so. If you do not have a measuring tape, then get creative (e.g. If you have a spare pair of shoes in the car, put a shoe in the pothole and take a picture. You can then work out an approximate measurement when you do have a measuring tape at hand)
  5. Take a note of any other relevant information, such as speed limit, the busyness of the road, any witnesses that stopped, CCTV, etc
  6. Obtain evidence of the loss (e.g. estimates/invoices for new tyres, suspension, etc)
  7. Keep copies of the above in the case they get lost in the post

The next task is to establish who is responsible, this is most likely a local council. Once this is established, use a Freedom of Information Act to request the history of the road’s repairs, a record of any road inspections and find out if the particular pothole has been reported previously.

As the claimant, you need to establish that the local council has been negligent and/or breached their duty of care. You have greater prospects in succeeding if you can establish that the council knew about the pothole for a reasonable period and did not inspect and/or repair it. Please consider however that a council cannot be held responsible for a pothole that they did not know about.

When you have requested and obtained disclosure from the council, consider the pros and cons of your argument and indeed whether it is worth pursuing a claim.

You will need to prepare a letter of claim to the council if you consider that you have a good, persuasive argument and want to pursue the claim. Set out your argument, the details of the incident, the measurements of the pothole and the losses that you have incurred. Then serve (post or email) the letter of claim on the council.

Be prepared to wait and remain calm. Ensure your copies are secure in the event they are needed and consider any correspondence you receive in return.

The council may not offer you everything claimed but they may propose a compromise offer. For example, paying for the repairs but not taxi fare to and from the repairing garage. Be prepared to negotiate however, and if necessary, consider court proceedings. You may have sufficient prospects to warrant small claims court action, however, you are best seeking legal advice if you intend to go down this route. You can get in touch with Minster Law if you do have a pothole claim and require any legal advice.

At Minster Law we are committed to not only investigating liability issues, but we will also ensure that you receive the best possible compensation package.  With our legal experts, access to some of the best medical and rehabilitation specialists in the country, we are here to provide the best possible support.

To be able to make a claim with us, your road traffic incident must have:

  • Happened within the last three years (sometimes this can be longer e.g., if you were a child when injured or lacked mental capacity to make a claim yourself)
  • You believe it was somebody else’s fault
  • Cause you to suffer an injury and/or other financial losses

So, if you or a loved one have suffered an injury because of a traffic incident, our team are on hand to offer you a free no-obligation consultation.