Gone down a pothole? The six simple steps to claim cost of any cycle or car damage
While the country remains in lockdown, cycling is a popular way to escape home for a while and get some exercise.
As well as seasoned cyclists, many people who have not ridden a bike in years are taking to the roads.
But one dangerous obstacle that all cyclists – and drivers – need to watch out for is the dreaded pothole.
Menace: One dangerous obstacle that all cyclists need to watch out for is the dreaded pothole
Road users can rapidly find themselves out of pocket if their bike or vehicle is damaged by one, while cyclists can easily be injured if a pothole causes them to come off their bike.
By reporting a pothole to the council, both cyclists and drivers may be able to reclaim repair costs.
But a recent survey by consumer group Which? reveals that little more than a quarter of people take the time to report them. Unsurprisingly, many feel there is no point informing the council as they believe the process will be both time-consuming and fruitless.
Yet claims for damage caused by potholes can be rejected if the relevant authorities have not been made aware of them.
Simon Williams, of motoring organisation RAC, says: ‘We urge road users to report potholes so they can be repaired.
‘This way, if another road user suffers damage to their vehicle from a reported pothole, they will be able to seek compensation.’
Reporting potholes is relatively straightforward. In many cases, it can be done via the local council’s website, but if the pothole is on a motorway or major A-road, it should be reported to Highways England, Traffic Scotland, Traffic Wales or the Department for Infrastructure (Northern Ireland). Alternatively, use Cycling UK’s website fillthathole.org.uk.
Those who want to make a claim for damage should include as much evidence as possible, including photos of the pothole (ideally next to an item such as a glove or shoe to help convey size and scale) – as well as the damage to the bike or car.
If it is safe to do so, take measurements of the pothole, but obviously do not do this on a busy road.
KEY STEPS TO COMPENSATION
1. Gather evidence: if it is safe to do so, take photos of the pothole and the damage caused. Drawing a simple sketch of the area can also help.
2. Report the pothole: inform your national highways agency or local council about the pothole.
3. Get repair quotes: include these with your claim. If repairs need to be carried out immediately, include copies of the receipts.
4. Make a claim: include full details of the incident, with date and time.
5. Negotiate on costs: you may be able to negotiate any offer you receive but be aware you are unlikely to be compensated for additional travel expenses or the inconvenience caused.
6. Consider the small claims court: if your claim is rejected and you want to use the court, seek legal advice first as there might be costs involved.
Claims are more likely to be successful if the pothole is more than four centimetres deep (roughly the height of two 20p coins) and more than 15 centimetres wide.
Noting any landmarks on or near the road – or whether the pothole poses a particular risk because it is located at a junction – can help support a claim as can witness statements.
It is also wise to get quotes for repairs from local bike shops or garages (they can stay open during lockdown) and include these with the claim.
Even if there is no visible damage, cyclists are advised to get their bike checked just in case, while drivers who need their vehicle for essential travel during this time (to buy food, for health reasons or work), should take their car for any urgent repairs straightaway.
Copies of the receipts can be included with the claim. Claims should be sent to the same local authority or department that the pothole was reported to. Include the time and date of the incident and the evidence gathered.
Remember, the claim can be rejected if the relevant authority can show it was unaware of the pothole, but anyone who believes their rejected claim is unfair can appeal.
Alternatively, the small claims court may be able to help, although it is best to seek legal advice first.
In the Budget last month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said £2.5 billion would be set aside to fix 50 million potholes over the next five years.
But the money now allocated to tackle coronavirus and its economic impact could well mean this promise is not fulfilled, leaving our roads plagued by the menace of potholes.