Claiming for pothole damage on car insurance

Potholes are the bane of every driver’s life. Not only are they a road safety hazard, they can also cause significant damage to your car if you hit one. The question is, can you claim for pothole-related damage? And if so, how do you go about it? Let’s find out.

Potholes are the bane of every driver’s life. Not only are they a road safety hazard, they can also cause significant damage to your car if you hit one. The question is, can you claim for pothole-related damage? And if so, how do you go about it? Let’s find out.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
5 min read
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Why are potholes such a problem in the UK?

The cold, wet weather we have in the UK is the main reason potholes have become such a big concern. Our roads start to form tiny cracks from general wear and tear, and when water enters these tiny cracks, it freezes and expands during cold weather. This causes the cracks to widen and when the water eventually melts, potholes and craters are created in the road surface as cars drive over them. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that potholes are so common in the UK and are particularly bad during or immediately after winter.

It’s said that a pothole is fixed every 19 seconds in England, with each costing an average of £40 to repair. But it’s a vicious circle – as one gets fixed, another seems to develop. There’s now a huge backlog in repairs, with some councils saying that it would take them 10 years and £12 billon to repair all their potholes.

Can I claim for pothole-related damage to my car?

As long as you can prove that the damage was caused by a pothole, you can make a claim. 

You can make a claim for pothole damage from the council or authority responsible for maintaining the road where the pothole was or you can claim on your car insurance if you have fully comprehensive cover. 

Claiming on your car insurance

If you claim on your car insurance, just be aware that it might affect your no-claims bonus and could lead to a more expensive premium the following year. You’ll also have to pay an excess – the amount of money you’ll have to contribute towards a claim.  

It’s worth weighing up your options because many drivers find that going down the insurance route isn’t cost-effective. Instead they choose to make a compensation claim against the authority responsible for maintaining the road. 

How can I make a claim for pothole damage from the council or road authority?

To give yourself the best possible chance of making a successful pothole claim, follow these steps:

  • Gather evidence to support your case. Note the name of the road and the location of the pothole using landmarks if you can. Safely take photos of the pothole and measure its width and depth. Make a note of when you hit the pothole (date and time of day) and the exact details of the damage to your car, with supporting evidence. Don’t stop on a motorway to photograph a pothole – trespassing on a motorway is a criminal offence.
  • Report the pothole to the relevant council/authority. You can do this on the GOV.UK website. Not only are you being a responsible citizen by doing this, but there will also be a record of the report that will work in your favour when you make a claim
  • Get repair quotes. Speak to various garages and get quotes to repair the damage caused by the pothole. Keep all these quotes as well as any receipts you receive after paying for the repairs. Request that the mechanic states, in writing, that the damage done to the car was caused by a pothole
  • Submit your claim. You can usually request a claim form from the relevant authority to speed up the process. Fill in all the details surrounding the case, including evidence of the pothole, a full description of the incident and receipts issued for the repair work.

How will I know if my pothole claim is successful?

The council or authority will let you know the result of your claim. They may accept the claim and cover the full cost of the repairs. They may accept the claim and cover a portion of the repairs. Or they may reject the claim entirely.

What can I do if the council rejects my claim?

If your car has been badly damaged and you feel your claim has been rejected unfairly, it might be worth taking your case further.

Firstly, you could put in a Freedom of Information request to check the inspection record of the road that damaged your vehicle. If it wasn’t checked as regularly as it should have been or wasn’t repaired quickly, you may have evidence of negligence and can make a full claim.

If you’re still not happy with the outcome, you have the option to approach a small claims court. Only do this as a last resort though, as you’ll have to pay legal expenses if you lose the case.

Will I be covered if the pothole is on private land?

Potholes aren’t just found on public highways. You might also come across them in shop car parks, new housing estates or private driveways. In this instance, whoever owns the private road is legally responsible for its upkeep. 

If the road owner has public liability insurance, you could claim on this. Otherwise, you may have to claim on your own car insurance.  

You’ll still need to prove where the damage happened, so gather as much evidence as you can and contact your insurance provider. 

How can I prevent pothole damage?

The easiest thing you can do to prevent pothole damage to your car is to drive with care:

  • Be sure to stick to the speed limit – the faster you’re driving when you hit a pothole, the more extensive the damage will be
  • When driving in wet weather, be very wary of puddles – huge potholes often masquerade as modest puddles of water
  • Maintain a steady grip on your steering wheel at all times. The jolt caused by hitting a pothole can cause you to lose control of the vehicle and this can result in a nasty accident
  • Keep your tyres in tip-top condition. Quality tyres that have been properly inflated will provide extra protection.

Frequently asked questions

What damage can potholes do to my car?

Hitting a pothole can cause serious damage to your car’s wheels and tyres, not to mention its suspension and bodywork. Potholes can also affect catalytic converters, which can be very expensive to repair. It’s important to have breakdown cover in case a pothole stops you in your tracks. In the most severe cases, a pothole could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and crash.

How can I tell if my car has been damaged by a pothole?

If you’ve recently hit a pothole and notice a loss of pressure, puncture or a bulge in your tyre, the impact may have caused it. Low profile tyres, aka thinner tyres, are more prone to pothole damage.

If your wheel has become bent, cracked or otherwise warped, again this might be a sign of pothole damage. Finally, if your suspension suddenly becomes noisier than it was, this could also be a sign of pothole-induced damage.

Will I still receive a pay-out if the pothole isn’t reported?

A local council or road authority may reject your claim on the grounds that the pothole hadn’t been reported or picked up by an earlier inspection, leaving them unaware of the problem. You can still claim on your car insurance, although this will probably only be worthwhile if your claim is larger than your excess and you’re prepared to lose your no-claims bonus.

How long do I have to claim for pothole damage on my car insurance?

You should tell your insurance provider about any pothole damage as soon as possible. If your claim with the local authority takes a long time or is refused, your provider will already have a record of the damage so you can claim through them instead.

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