Pothole crisis: how to make a claim if one damages your vehicle

Britain’s pothole scandal has seen over one million potholes reported by motorists in 2016, causing £3.1 million worth of damage to vehicles in the UK. Find out how you can make a claim if one damages your car, here.

Making a claim for pothole damage

Report a pothole

How many potholes are in your area?

How to ‘drive’ a pothole

To illustrate just how horrific the UK’s pothole crisis is, Confused.com have researched the pandemic and created the below scrolling animation showing how deep all of the UK’s potholes would be if they were amalgamated into one giant hole.


Created by Confused.com (view the full interactive)

The research revealed that a huge 1,031,787 potholes were reported to local councils last year and with the average pothole depth being 40mm, all of the holes combined would measure a whopping 25.6 miles deep – 3.7 times the depth of the Pacific Ocean.

The pothole crisis is resulting in breakdown services attending to 72 pothole-related emergencies every day, leading to councils paying out for compensation claims from 90 drivers a week.

How bad is your area?

The below table reveals the worst affected areas in the UK, with Surrey taking the dreaded number one spot.

County Number of potholes
Surrey 6473
Hampshire 3241
Kent 3105
Hertfordshire 3004
Essex 2912
Lancashire 2484
Glasgow 2444
Buckinghamshire 2399
Oxfordshire 2225
Devon 2114

The South East has the most serious pothole epidemic – accounting for the top five worst areas – with 900,000 British motorists reporting damage in the region over the past year.

With UK motorists shelling out £730 million a year – an average of £110 each – you might not always have to pay. Check out our guide to claiming for pothole damage.

Making a claim for pothole damage

Here’s what to do if your car is damaged by a pothole…

Supporting evidence: It’s important to record as much supporting evidence as possible. Along with basics such as time, date and location, use your smartphone to take video and photos of the pothole – if it’s safe to do so – and visible damage to your car. Take a wider photo of the general scene showing the pothole and surrounding area. Note the approximate depth and width of the crater, too.

You might be in an unfamiliar location, or on an unmarked rural road when a pothole strikes, so download a smartphone app such as GPS Data, which will let you record the exact location of the pothole – you can then enter this in sites such as Google maps to find the address.

Also collect names and addresses of any witnesses if the pothole caused more serious damage.

Who to claim from: Next, find out who’s responsible for the road where damage occurred. To find out which council maintains the road, you can head to this council finder. Simply use your local knowledge or Google maps to find out the postcode of the road and enter it in the ‘council finder’ below.

Find the council responsible for the pothole here

However, there are exceptions where the local authority (LA) will not be responsible for the road. Motorways and major trunk roads are maintained by the Highways England, while red routes in London are looked after by Transport for London. Contact the relevant body for your claim.

Contact the local authority or responsible body: Now, it’s time to make the claim. Compile a dossier – including all your additional evidence – and send it via post or email to the body responsible for the pothole. Don’t forget to include reports, quotes, or bills for any damage.

Expect the claim to be rejected by the LA or responsible body, this will be a standard procedure for many councils. They will usually cite the statutory defence that it was unaware of the pothole and that it had regularly inspected the road in question.

However, if you believe this to be untrue, cite the Freedom of Information Act 2000, to obtain details of the Council’s road inspection reports for the road where the pothole was located. This will detail inspections, works carried out and reports of defects – such as potholes. This will reveal if the council was aware of the pothole, or had breached its own regulations for regular inspections of the road in question. If so – repeat your claim.

Top tip: Find out how to submit a freedom of information request by opening Google and typing in ‘West Sussex County Council freedom of information request’ (replace WSCC with the appropriate council) and you’ll be provided with a direct link to all the information you need.

Wait for a response from and be prepared to negotiate a settlement – avoiding expensive legal battles.

pothole crisis

Is your area plagued by potholes? Image credit: Wiki

How to report a pothole

If you spot a pothole, you should always take time to report it. This will force the responsible council to deal with it and you could save vulnerable road users – such as cyclists and motorcyclists – from far worse than a dented alloy wheel. Simply head to Google and type in ‘report’ pothole’, or download a smartphone app such as the Government backed application Fill That Hole.

Possible damage: Striking a pothole is most likely to damage wheels and tyres. The impact can cause tears, bumps and blowouts in the tyre, while the wheel can be left buckled, cracked or completely shattered. Other issues include damage to suspension, tracking and wheel balancing.

Trip to the garage: If you hit a pothole and think your car might be damaged, keep calm and pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so. Then, check tyres for bulges, cuts and signs of puncture. Also look for damage to the wheel itself – a cracked or buckled wheel could lead to loss of control or sudden deflation of the tyre.

Inspect the underside of the car for any escaping fluids. Striking a deep pothole could result in oil, brake fluid, or hydraulic leaks – all of which make it dangerous to continue driving.

If you’ve lost any parts – such as wheel covers – only recover them from the road if it’s safe to do so.

If your wheels, tyres and fluids look okay, it should be safe to proceed and check whether the car’s steering and suspension systems have been damaged. If the car’s handling seems ‘different’ than before, then it’s likely you’ve damaged part of the suspension system. Ask yourself; do you feel an increased amount of swaying whenever you make simple turns? Does the car plunge forward during braking? Also, check for changes to the steering; does it pull to one side, fail to centre properly, or feel heavier than before? Are there vibrations through the steering wheel? If you answer yes to any of these questions, park your vehicle in a safe place and call your garage or breakdown service for further advice.

Additionally, many months of driving on pothole-scarred roads can result in cumulative damage to your car’s steering and suspension. You might not notice this gradual deterioration, but it doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Regular checks at your local dealer or tyre centre will help to pick up any problems.

How to ‘drive’ a pothole

If there’s no way of avoiding a pothole, how you drive through it could reduce damage, or even avoid an accident.

Braking: If you spot a pothole but it’s too late to avoid it, you should brake progressively as you approach it, but release the brakes before you hit the crater. Entering a pothole with brakes slammed on will compress the suspension and force the front of the car into a dive – worsening any damage and increasing your chance of losing control.

Roll: Take your foot of the throttle prior to impact. This is so you ‘roll’ over the pothole and cut the chances of damage.

Avoid the urge to swerve: A violent last-minute swerve could increase damage due to the wheel’s angle as you turn – suspension systems and alloy wheels handle straight on impacts better than bangs from the side – while also risking collisions with other vehicles or road architecture.

10 to 2 rule: Always hold your car’s steering wheel at the correct ‘10 t0 2’ position, but this is especially important when riding a pothole.


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