Potholes – Know Your Rights
Have you ever had damage caused to your tyres due to unattended pot holes on the road? You hear the clunk and feel the jolt of your tyres dipping into the hole and have a sinking feeling that this may be costly! This is an all too common occurrence, particularly in winter months and with Local Authority budgets being inadequate to quickly meet all obligations. For some vehicles, damage will be for more than one tyre and can also extend to the wheels, leaving you thousands out of pocket. If this happens to you, you may be able to claim the repair costs back.
Local Authorities have an obligation to keep the roads in good repair and the key question when looking at reclaiming costs is whether the Local Authority has acted unreasonably in failing to repair the road. As long as the defect has been present for a number of days without the Council taking action you stand a chance of success. It may also be the case that the Council has failed to follow its own policy of inspections.
If you fall victim to a pothole, the first thing to do is gather immediate evidence. If it safe to do so, take a close up photograph of the damage, including an indication of depth using an everyday object for reference, Only do this if the road conditions make it possible. You would not be expected to provide this for busy roads of motorways. You should also take a photograph of the pothole from a distance and the damage to your car.
You should report the pothole to Council at the earliest opportunity – consider this your good deed!
You do not need to wait for your case to settle before undertaking repairs, but keep all evidence of quotes and receipts for work.
In most cases, the Local Authority will have a specific form to use for your claim. In simple cases, the Council will pay out at this stage. If it is refused, you can make a more detailed claim outlining why you disagree. This may including requesting a history of the road repairs and the Council’s own policy for inspecting roads and dealing with repairs to see if it was followed. You may need to make a Freedom of Information Request.
Many case will result in success at this stage and it can be a huge relief. If the claim is still unsuccessful, you have the option of pursuing a claim at the County Court. This can be extremely costly and will put many off taking the claim further. It is not a decision to take lightly and legal advice should always be sought.
The government has produced guidance to help you ascertain which authority is responsible for the road and to give further information on the claims process