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Pothole damage - making a claim

If you suffer a breakdown due to a pothole, or damage to your tyres, wheels, axles or suspension, it is possible to claim recompense from your local authority or (if the incident occurs on a motorway) the Highways Agency. The following precautions will make your case as strong as possible, and could be the difference between a successful claim and a rejected one:

  • Making notes – Try and record the exact location of the pothole, as well as its size, shape and depth and any other details (e.g. whether it is on a blind bend). Take a photograph or make a sketch, if it is safe and possible to do so.
  • Finding witnesses – If you can, get the contact details of someone who saw the circumstances in which you hit the pothole. This can help to prove the veracity of your claim.
  • Keeping everything on file – Make sure that you file quotes and receipts from repair garages in one place, and make copies in case anything should go astray.
  • Be prepared for rejection – Initially, councils generally reject claims under Section 58 of the 1980 Highways Act. Effectively, this absolves them from responsibility for your pothole damage if they can prove that they have an inspection and repair schedule for the road in line with the national code of practice for highway management (which can be found at http://www.ukroadsliaisongroup.org). Don't give up, though – there are still means by which you can reject their rejection!
  • Investigate thoroughly – If your claim is not successful at first, you can submit a Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about the road's maintenance programme. Carefully compare the UK Road Liaison Group's best practice guidelines with your own council's maintenance regulations for any discrepancies.
  • Remain reasonable and flexible – The process may be frustrating, but becoming angry will achieve nothing but a rise in blood pressure. Stay as calm and articulate as possible in your dealings with the authorities, and consider any lower level of compensation offered to you as a compromise.
  • Consider further action – If your claim is still rejected, there is the option of taking it the Small Claims Court for arbitration. You will have to pay legal costs, so make a careful decision about whether the time and money spent will be worthwhile.

Maintaining concentration at all times and knowing what to look out for (potholes hidden in innocent-looking puddles, for example), meanwhile, can reduce the likelihood of having to go through the long and difficult process of claiming compensation in the first place. The Car Advice and Tips section of www.lookers.co.uk offers more advice on the right way to deal with poor road surfaces.