How to claim for pothole damage

Published: 02/12/2014

The Highways Agency and local authorities have an obligation to maintain our roads. This means if your vehicle is damaged because of a defective road, by a pothole for example, they are liable for the cost of the repairs.

Unfortunately though making a claim is not always that straightforward. As always the onus is on you to prove the authority neglected their responsibility. Don’t worry though we’ll take you through the claims process step by step to help you put forward a strong, and hopefully, successful case.

First things first…

You need to be confident that what caused the damage was in fact a pothole. In order to be classified as a pothole it must be at least 40mm deep. This is around the height of a pound coin.

As soon as you hit a pothole you need to report it to the relevant authority:

Location of pothole Who's responsible
Local roads, B roads and smaller A roads Local council
Motorway and major A roads Highway Agency
Roads listed as ‘red routes’ in Greater London Transport for London

When you report it ask if they can send you a claim form or if these forms are available to download online.

Telling your insurer

Most insurers request that you inform them of any incident involving damage to your vehicle regardless if you intend to claim through your insurance or not. There is a risk that, even if you don’t claim, your insurance premiums could go up although the big insurers have insisted it wouldn’t affect your policy or inflate your premium.

If you choose to inform your insurer you then have between five or six months before you have to file an insurance claim. This should therefore give you enough time to see if your claim against the Highway Agency or Local Authority is successful.


As with most claims, the more evidence you can gather the higher chance you have of recovering compensation. When it comes to claiming for pothole damage it is a good idea to:

  • Take photos (if possible) from a variety of angles including close ups, its position within the road. In addition to photos of the pothole, also take pictures of any landmarks nearby as this can help the authority identify the location of the pothole. It’s also good to get some perspective shots to demonstrate the size and depth of the pothole so, if possible, take photos with an everyday item inside the hole.
  • Photograph your car and the damage the pothole has caused
  • Record the time and date of the accident and describe the driving conditions such as traffic levels and weather
  • Speak to any witnesses and get their details. Contact them to ask if they can put something in writing for you
  • Get an itemised and dated copy of the mechanic’s bill. If possible ask the mechanic to confirm the damage was caused by the pothole.

Making a fast claim

Once you’ve gathered all your evidence it’s time to submit your claim. If the authority has sent you a claim form (when you reported the pothole) simply complete this and return to them along with all the evidence you have gathered.

It’s also a good idea to include a cover letter which summarises your case and makes it clear that, if you don’t receive compensation for the damage to your vehicle, you are prepared to take matters further.

Once you have submitted your claim, there are three possible outcomes:

  • You are awarded full compensation
  • You receive a partial offer. If this is case you need to decide if you are satisfied with the amount offered or if you wish to make a full claim
  • Your claim is rejected.

Claims are often rejected, even if they have merit. If this happens to you don’t be dissuaded as you may still be able to claim compensation… if you’re prepared to put in the legwork.

Making a full claim

It’s not complicated to make a full claim but it can be quite time consuming. You are basically trying to prove that the authority either neglected its responsibility in maintaining the road and/or its maintenance policy fails to meet national standards.

In order to do this you need to:

  • Get a copy of the road repair policy and inspection history. To do this you need to submit a request for the documentation under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. Simply write to the authority asking for:
    • A copy of its current road maintenance policy relating to that road
    • A copy of the road repair history for that road over the past year.
    The authority then has 20 days to respond. If they fall to meet the deadline complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
  • Investigate how the road was maintained, in particular:
    • Check the frequency and manner in which inspections were done (e.g. were they carried out on foot or by van, how fast was the van travelling)
    • Look to see if there is a history of problems on this road
    • Check to see if the pothole had already been reported. If so, find out when and if any repairs were ever carried out.
    • Compare the authority’s policy against the national standards and make a list of any discrepancies. Even if the authority followed its own procedures, its standards may fall short of what they should be.

Time to submit your claim

Once you have gone through all the documentation and compiled your argument it’s time to, well, argue it! Compose a letter which clearly details all of the evidence you have found, both from the accident itself and what you have gleaned from the road repair policy and inspection history.

Whilst you are arguing your case remember to keep your tone neutral and calm, referring to evidence wherever possible. You may wish to quote relevant passages to support your argument.

It’s usually about a month before you hear back from the authorities. Once again there will three possible outcomes:

  • Victory is yours and you recover the total amount of compensation
  • Victory is partially yours and you receive an offer for some of the total cost
  • Your claim is rejected. Unfortunately, even with all your hard work, your claim may still be unsuccessful.

If this does happen, or if you wish to contest a partial offer, there is one more avenue you can try and that’s the small claims court. Be aware though you will usually have to pay a court fee so, if your claim is unsuccessful here, not only will you be out of pocket for your repairs you’ll also lose this money too. If you’re willing to take this chance, visit and start your claim.

The information provided is designed to help to recover compensation for vehicle damage sustained because of a defective road. If you have also been injured in the accident then our team of personal injury solicitors could help you make an accident claim. Click here to speak to one of the team.

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