Can you claim for vehicle damage caused by hitting a pothole?

Amount of money paid out for damaged potholes have decreased
Amount of money paid out for damaged potholes have decreased

Potholes can be unavoidable and some treacherous journeys have caused serious damage to motorists’ vehicles – and come with a costly repair price.

If damage to the road has been reported it is possible for drivers to claim compensation for repairs and personal injury from the county council.

But since 2014, the average amount paid out per claim to cover the cost of vehicle damage has dropped significantly.

Four years ago, North Yorkshire County Council paid out £36,657 to claims from motorists following damage to a vehicle specifically caused by potholes.

On average this works out to around £610 per successful claim – although some claims do result in higher amounts than others. By 2017, of the successful claims which have been finalised so far, an average of £241 per claim has been granted as compensation.

The payout has seen a gradual decrease in the past four years dipping to an average of £459 per claim in 2015 and £274 in 2016.

If a driver thinks the council has failed to maintain the highway they can apply for compensation. They must prove the highway was not maintained appropriately and that this was the direct cause of the incident and that they suffered a loss as a result.

Even if this is proved, the council will not have to pay compensation if it can demonstrate all reasonable steps to ensure the highway was safe were taken. This means that all inspections and repairs had been carried out as planned or reported.

If damage was caused after an inspection and the council was not notified of the damage, it is not legally liable.

In the first four months of 2018, more claims have been submitted to the council across the county compared to all claims made in 2017.

So how often are compensation claims successful?

In 2014, North Yorkshire County Council paid out more than £36,000 in successful claims following damage to vehicles.

But out of 261 claims made to the council only 60 were successful – and since then the numbers have dropped.

In 2014, one in just over four claims from across the county were successful which dropped to one in 5.2 by 2016.

In Scarborough and Whitby, the area’s drivers had one of the best chances of receiving a payout in 2014 – with one in every three claims being granted compensation.

Two years later, however, of seven claims made in the Whitby Highway Area, which includes Scarborough, none of the claims led to the motorist receiving compensation.

A spokesperson for the county council said: “The more recent years are classed “immature”, as some claims will not yet have been brought to a conclusion.

“The figures are for when the claim occurred, so there will be fewer claims concluded for 2017 than 2016 and so on. This year is only about a third of the way through for claims to occur.”

The area also has the second lowest number of claims made to the council with 60 made from January 2014 to April 2018 – compared to 589 claims submitted to the Boroughbridge Highway Area.

The council’s website on the issue says: “Please think carefully before making a claim. Any compensation is paid from public money and we must protect the public funds we handle. The cost of investigating unsuccessful or fraudulent claims diverts money away from important front line services.

"Claims made against the council are not automatically paid; all claims received are investigated. Unfortunately incidents do occur, however, very few are actually attributable to negligence on the part of the highway authority. The majority of claims brought against North Yorkshire County Council are successfully defended.

"You should be aware that we check all claims to prevent fraud and your details may be shared with other organisations to carry out further checks."