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Pothole-related breakdowns on the rise: how to claim

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
The RAC attended 11% more pothole-related breakdowns in the last quarter of 2017 than it dealt with in the same period in 2016.

According to the RAC’s Pothole Index, 2,830 breakdowns were logged between October and December 2017 which could be attributed to damage sustained by potholes.

It said these vehicles broke down because of damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs or distorted wheels as a result of poor quality road surfaces.

This number was up from the 2,547 reported in the same quarter of 2016, highlighting that the higher rainfall and frost seen in the last three months of 2017 took its toll on the roads.

In all, RAC said 1.2% of breakdowns in 2017 were pothole related, up from 1% in 2016 and 0.8% in 2015.

The RAC added that if the weather is particularly wet or cold over the next few months, there could be a sharp rise in potholes which will ultimately lead to more damage to cars.

RAC chief engineer, David Bizley, said: “For the majority of drivers, these latest statistics are likely to be met with concern. After several years in which the surface quality of our roads appeared to be improving, the latest analysis suggests that for the third successive quarter we have gone backwards.

“Potholes are a menace for drivers and indeed for all road users. They represent a serious road safety risk and anyone who has driven into one will know it can be a frightening experience, not to say a potentially costly one – distorted wheels, broken springs and shock absorbers can be very expensive problems to put right. And for those on two wheels it can be genuinely life-threatening.”

In the 2017 Autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced additional funds for fixing potholes but the RAC said it wants to see local authorities given the certainty of ring-fenced, long-term funding from central government to enable local authorities to bring all of the UK’s roads up to a standard that is fit-for purpose.

“Drivers contribute around £40bn of motoring based taxation a year and many will feel that they are having to endure roads that are substandard and therefore getting poor value for money,” he said.

How to report and claim for pothole damage

Potholes and other defects on local roads come under the responsibility of the local council so you can report an issue via FixMyStreet by entering the location or postcode.

If the pothole is on a main road such as a motorway or A-road in England, you should contact Highways England on 0300 123 5000 or email In Scotland, visit MyGov while for those in NI, use NIDirect.

When it comes to claiming for pothole damage, success depends on whether the pothole has already been reported, according to the RAC.

This is because councils have a statutory defence that they can’t be held liable if they don’t know about an issue.

You may be able to make a claim if you have comprehensive car insurance.

Otherwise, before making a claim, the RAC said motorists should take these 10 steps:

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