What to do if you hit a pothole

Check for damage to tyres, wheels and steering

If you hit a deep pothole – even at quite a slow speed – you could damage your tyres, wheels and steering alignment.

The repairs may not be worth an insurance claim but you might be able to get compensation from the local council. Read on to find out how.

Pothole in road

If you’re unlucky enough to hit a pothole, here’s what you need to do:

1. Check for damage

Even hitting a pothole at low speed could harm your car, but at high speed there could be much more damage.

  • Pull over as soon as it’s safe to do so.
  • Look for any visible damage to your wheels and tyres.
  • Check for any vibrations while you're driving.
  • Check if your steering wheel doesn't centre properly or if the car pulls to one side.

If you see any damage or the steering doesn't seem right, get your car checked by a garage or tyre specialist as soon as possible. It can be costly and dangerous to ignore tracking or steering damage.

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2. Take some notes

If you want to claim either on your insurance or from the council, you'll need some information to back it up. You'll also need the info so you can report the pothole and help make the road safer for other drivers.

Don’t rely on your memory - it's best to take some notes.

  • Return to the scene, take notes or make sketches.
  • If safe to do so, take photographs of the pothole.
  • Include a familiar object in your photo, like a shoe or drinks can, to give a sense of scale.
  • Make a note of exactly where the pothole was, including the road name, town and its position in the road
  • Take down the contact details of anyone who saw what happened.

3. Report the pothole

Whether you think you'll claim for damage or not, the first thing you do should is report the pothole. A hit at high speed could make a driver lose control or even crash, so it's important that they're fixed.

4. Repair your car

If you have to get repairs done it's a good idea to get several quotes first. That way, you can shop around for the best deal.

  • Get a few different quotes so you can compare prices.
  • Keep copies of all quotes, invoices and receipts to support your claim.
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5. Make your claim

You might be able to claim compensation from the council for the cost of any repairs to your car.

  • Write to the council responsible for the road with the pothole on.
  • Include all the details you’ve collected, like copies of your quotes, invoices and receipts.

Remember that the local highway authority can’t be held responsible for a pothole they didn’t know about. They might not have known about it if it hadn’t been reported to them, or because it wasn’t spotted by them during their regular checks.

But councils do have a responsibility to fix large potholes if they know about them. And they're supposed to keep the roads safe, so you'll need to argue that they've failed in this.

6. Make an appeal

By law, councils must have a system to inspect and repair roads. The system will say how often roads are inspected, how big any road damage needs to be before it's repaired, and how quickly repairs should happen.

If your claim's rejected and you feel it's unfair, you can appeal it.

  • Ask to see the council's road inspection reports and try a reclaim.
  • If the damage is very expensive, speak to your insurance company or seek legal advice.

How big a problem are potholes?

Potholes have cost the UK's councils more than £3.7million in compensation in the last 18 months. But to repair a pothole only costs around £39.80 on average. We think local authorities could have filled in around 93,923 potholes for that money.1

Edmund King, AA President, said: "In the context of pothole compensation it's a case of throwing money down a hole."

1As reported by Stephen Hayward in The People on 8 December 2019

Published: 22 November 2016 | Updated: 11 December 2019 | Author: The AA