Local authorities paid out £22.8 million in pothole compensation to drivers whose cars were damaged by dodgy tarmac, according to Which? However this figure pales into insignificance with the billions of pounds it would cost to fix the UK’s streets. The numbers have led to suggestions the government would rather continue to pay compensation via their own insurance policies rather than foot the bill to make the necessary road repairs.
The backlog of road repairs per local authority has increased steadily over the years. In 2009 the figure stood at £53.2million and in 2012 it reached £61.3million. Local authorities have estimated it would cost a staggering £12.93billion to repair the UK’s entire road network — equivalent to 600 years worth of compensation at current payout levels.
Figures collected by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) and published in the 2012 ALARM report – short for Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey – show the north-west of England was home to the most claims, totalling £8 million. It was followed by Yorkshire and Humberside (£3.3million), London (£3.2million), the South East (£2.7million) the west Midlands (£1.8million) and Wales (£1.4million).
In the report, one anonymous local authority engineer explained, “we’re not receiving the funds to keep roads at existing levels.” Another painted even more doom and gloom for bumpy roads: “With current resources it would take 20 years to cover the backlog.”
If you think your car has been damaged by bumpy roads, and you want to take advantage of the government’s apparent willingness to pay out, you can claim compensation by following this 10-step process, as outlined by potholes.co.uk
1. Gather necessary evidence. Take photos of the pothole when the road is quiet, measure the width and depth and take note of the positioning e.g. whether it was hidden from view or avoidable. If the road is too busy to photograph safely, take photos from a distance.
2. Report the pothole on a website like potholes.co.uk to warn other drivers.
3. Submit a Freedom of Information Act to your local council to obtain details on how the relevant road is inspected and maintained.
4. If a council rejects your claim citing Section 58 of the Highways Act, which is a statutory defence, on the grounds it had taken reasonable measures to keep the road pothole-free, don’t give up yet.
5. Now is the time to read up on the national code that governs what is deemed good highway maintenance and make your case. Whatever you do, remain calm when talking to your council even if the pothole was the size of Cheddar Gorge and your car is now comprised two halves. Losing your temper will not get you anywhere and a bad attitude may bite you back later.
6. Now you need to see how your council deals with the highway maintenance code and where any gaps may lie. If everything has been followed to the letter, you may struggle to win.
7. Strong case or not, there is no need to rush to appoint a solicitor or go for Court proceedings. A good self-made case may lead to…
8. …An offer from the council with some figure of compensation. Unsurprisingly, this may low-ball your original figure. At this point, be willing to negotiate as escalation could prove costly. Equally, though, don’t accept anything because it is the path of least resistance. If the damage was serious, you should be paid what you are entitled to and you have made it this far.