If your car is damaged by a pothole, you may be able to claim compensation from Swindon Borough Council for the costs of the repair.
The chances of being successful in claiming compensation will significantly depend on whether the pothole has already been reported.
Councils have a statutory defence in that they cannot be held liable for a defect they are not aware of – either because it has not been reported to them or it has not been picked up their own system of inspection and maintenance.
To ensure the council is aware of the potholes that may cause damage you can report them easily by using FixMyStreet.
The RAC have published a comprehensive guide on what you should do in an instance where a pothole has caused damage to your car and you wish to claim compensation.
When the damage occurs you should:
If your vehicle is damaged due to a pothole, before you make a claim it is worth remembering these steps:
- Take notes – When you are parked somewhere safely, write down all the key details including the location of the pothole, its rough size, shape and depth. If it is safe to do so, make a simple sketch of the area showing the position of the pothole including any surrounding features. It is also worth taking a photograph of the offending pothole
- Any witnesses? – Wherever possible, get the details of any witnesses who saw the incident. This might help your claim
- Get quotes – Make sure you get quotes for all repairs. Keep all quotes, bills and garage receipts safely in one place and make copies of them to support your claim
- Make your claim – A step-by-step guide is below
- Prepare for rejection – The highways authority may defend the claim under section 58 of the Highways Act and their right to statutory defence. If they can prove they have a regular inspection and repair system in place, they may be able to reject your claim
- Do your research – before going back to the authority to discuss the claim further, review the guidance provided on their website, check what the council is liable for and verify if they are carrying out a reasonable system of inspection and repair
- Be willing to negotiate – If the highways authority makes you an offer, you should seriously consider it. You may be able to negotiate but while you can claim the cost of repairs, you won’t necessarily be compensated for additional travel expenses or the inconvenience caused.
- Consider the small claims court – If your claim is rejected, you may be able to go to the small claims court. If you choose to, seek legal advice as you could end up incurring legal costs
- Weigh up the pros and cons – It may not actually be worthwhile making a claim for compensation if the amount is below a certain level. Before attempting to make a claim, do your research first as it could be a costly, time-consuming process
- Keep calm – Always try to remain calm and professional when dealing with the highways authority. And keep copies of all the letters and emails you send and receive – if you do go to court, you will have to provide a record of all your correspondence
To make a claim you must:
- Address your claim to the right authority. Sending it to the place could mean your claim is delayed or doesn’t get looked at. If the pothole:
- is on a major A-road or motorway in England, contact Highways England on 0300 123 5000 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- is on a major road or motorway in Scotland, find the right authority on the Transport Scotland website
- is on a major road or motorway in Wales, contact Traffic Wales on 0300 123 1213 or email@example.com
- is on a major road or motorway in Northern Ireland, contact the Department for Infrastructure
- is on any other road, contact the local council that is responsible for the road. You can look up the relevant council at the GOV.UK website
- In your claim, tell them about the issue and, if they believe you have a valid claim, they will normally send you a damage report form
- You will then have to fill the form in and send it to the address on the form. As well as any evidence you’ve collected as listed above, you’ll need to provide:
- Copies of estimates or invoices for repairs to your vehicle
- A current MOT certificate
- Photos of the damage if you have them
REMEMBER Trespassing on a motorway is a criminal offence. Don’t visit or try to photograph the location where your vehicle was damaged.