Pothole damage

How to make a claim for damage to your vehicle if you hit a pothole

At low speed, hitting a deep pothole can cause damage to tyres, wheels and steering alignment

At low speed, hitting a deep pothole can cause damage to tyres, wheels and steering alignment

At low speed, hitting a deep pothole can cause damage to tyres, wheels and steering alignment but the cost of repair probably won't justify an insurance claim.

At higher speed, hitting a deep pothole can cause severe damage and also risks loss of control resulting in impact with other vehicles, the kerb or roadside objects.

When safe to do so, stop and check your wheels and tyres after hitting a pothole although damage to tyres may not be immediately apparent.

If you notice a vibration, the steering wheel doesn't 'centre' properly or it pulls to one side, get the car checked at a garage or tyre specialist as faults such as tracking or steering damage can lead to later expense or even an accident.

Statutory defence

You might be able to claim for the cost of any repairs required to your vehicle from the Highway Authority.  It's important to understand that they do have a statutory defence as they cannot be held liable for a defect they do not know about, either because it has not been reported to them or because it has not been picked up in their own road condition surveys.

System of inspection

Councils must have in place a system of roads inspection and repair.  This will cover things like:

  • the frequency and method of inspection by road type
  • the type/size of defect that will be repaired, and
  • the timeframe within which repairs will be completed once the council becomes aware of any defect

This 'system' is defined at the local level rather than be imposed by regulation at a national level.

Councils must also have in place a system to enable them to receive defect reports from the public, and may be liable if they have not acted after receiving a defect report or observing a defect during one of their own planned inspections.

Report it

Whether you intend to make a claim for damage or not, your first priority should be to report the defect to your local Highway Authority – most likely a County, City or Borough Council – so that they can undertake repairs and prevent further incidents.

The council's website will give contact details and may even include an online defect reporting form or special telephone number.

You can find contact details for your local authority on the gov.uk website.

If the defect is on a main trunk road then you will have to contact the Highways Agency as local councils are not responsible for these.

Take notes

It's a good idea to take notes and make a sketch showing the location of the defect before leaving the scene:

  • place (town, village etc.)
  • road name and if known road number
  • direction of travel
  • location of defect relative to kerbside or centre line
  • size and depth of defect
  • contact details for any witnesses who saw the incident

If it is safe to do so take photographs of the defect too.  Both general pictures showing the location of the defect and close-ups showing its size will be useful. Including a familiar object such as a plastic bottle, drinks can or shoe in the picture will help convey scale.


If you have to get repairs done it's a good idea to get several quotes first.

Make sure you keep all quotes, invoices and receipts and take copies to support your claim.


Write to the Council responsible for the road with all the details of the defect, the damage to your car, and the cost of repairs required/carried out.


If your claim is rejected and you feel this is unfair you can ask to see details of the Council's road inspection reports, and try again to claim.

If the damage is very expensive, contact your insurance company or seek legal advice.

(15 April 2013)


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