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Potholes and road users – your rights

Potholes are much more than just a minor annoyance. They can cause serious damage and increase the risk of accidents for road users. Pothole damage claims can be complex, which is why it’s always wise to seek advice from a solicitor.

Put simply – potholes are a plague on British roads. The Local Government Association claimed in 2016 that it would take 14 years to clear the backlog of potholes, despite councils filling in almost two million per year. And in the Spring 2023 Budget, the Government pledged an additional £200 million to try and tackle the problem over the next 12 months.

And they’re much more than just a minor annoyance! They can cause serious damage and increase the risk of accidents for road users. When drivers hit a pothole, they might not react straight away and lose control of their car.

In the UK, we have a law specifically covering potholes and other issues on road maintenance. Section 58 of the Highways Act of 1980 describes the legal responsibilities of road owners to ensure that the roads under their authority are safe for drivers, pedestrians, and other road users to avoid untoward incidents such as injury or damage to property.

The road owners are usually the local councils and highway agencies referred to as the “authorities.”

Types of pothole claims

There are two types of claims that can be made; personal injury claims and property damage claims. Personal injury claims involve medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, costs incurred for medical equipment and rehabilitation etc.

Property damage claims, for example – involving the repair or replacement of damaged items, including bicycle frames, wheels, helmets and other costs associated with repairs/replacements or of course vehicle damage to a car, van etc.

Pothole damage claims can be complex, which is why it’s always wise to seek advice from a solicitor.

Potholes, vehicles & bikes – damage claims

If you’ve hit a pothole and your vehicle or bike is damaged, there are steps you can take to make a claim for the repairs in full – IF it is believed that the authority is responsible for maintaining the road and has failed to do so properly.

Potholes are unavoidable right now, particularly following the winter – but the big question is – could and should the pothole have been fixed it before you hit it?

What can you do if your vehicle or bike was damaged?

There are a number of steps you can take following a pothole incident. Yes, you can claim for pothole damage, but you’ll need to gather as much evidence as possible, no matter which authority you’re claiming from.

The steps

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

  • Let your local county, city or borough council know so they can fix the pothole
  • In England and Wales, you can find the right authority using this postcode checker
  • Motorways and A roads in England are managed by National Highways
  • In Wales, roads are managed by Traffic Wales

Your council may send you a form to complete when you report the pothole. If not, you can check whether your council allows fast claims by looking on its website. A full list of council websites can be found at

Collecting the evidence

  • Return to the scene and take notes
  • If safe to do so, take photographs of the pothole in question
  • Include a familiar object in your photo, to give a sense of scale
  • Make a note of exactly where the pothole was, including the road name, town and its position on the road (you can also use what3words to mark an exact location)
  • Take down the contact details of anyone who saw what happened
  • You may also be able to get a quote from a mechanic/garage confirming that the pothole caused the damage and the cost of any repairs.

If the authority was negligent and didn’t do the checks it should have, claiming for repairs can help put pressure on the powers that be, to keep the road safe and in a better condition!

For confidential legal advice along the way, do not hesitate to contact us on 01792 468684 or email

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