Alan Titchmarsh Show / Solicitors Journal

Potholes: how to beat the curse of British roads

155949_8128Anyone who has driven a car, cycled or walked in the streets around Britain will think that there are more potholes than not. The recent storms and freezing temperatures have only gone to exacerbate the problem. Apart from patching up the roads and pavements yourself, what can you do to smooth over the cracks and where do you go if you suffer any damage to yourself or your property?

It is thought that there are around 200,000 potholes in need of attention across British roads, or about one pothole per mile. It’s no wonder that the number of motorists claiming for pothole damage has risen by 79% since 2012, with UK Councils receiving 32,600 compensation claims costing a total of £2.5 million.  However, local authorities fixed 2.2 million potholes in 2012, a fifth more than the year before, but this is obviously still a growing problem.

Recording the damage – time does matter

If you, your car or cycle has been damaged by a pothole or you have tripped over because of an uneven pavement, there are a few rules to follow to maximise the potential for a successful claim.

  • Gather evidence: If it’s safe, take photographs straight away, measure the pothole’s width and depth (using coins to reflect the depth of the hole if you don’t have a ruler) and note anything else about it, such as whether it was hidden from view, what the weather was like (if relevant, for example if it had filled with rain water) and .
  • Write it down: It’s important to keep a record at the time of what happened and to note any immediate and obvious damage to yourself or your property.
  • See a doctor: If you think you may have suffered any injury, go and see your doctor. It is important that you make sure you are fit and well and if there has been any injury sustained, that you report it as quickly as possible.
  • Report it: Report to the relevant council or highways agency as soon as possible. This helps other motorists and pedestrians avoid the same fate and goes to ensure your claim is lodged in time.
  • Make the claim: Remember when contacting a council that anything you say could be read out in court, so make sure you sound professional, be polite and never lose your temper.

What if you are not satisfied with the response?

Don’t be deterred if the initial response you receive is not what you wanted to hear.  There may not be any need to rush into court proceedings or incur solicitors costs.

If an offer has been made, there may still be some scope for negotiating a higher settlement sum.  If you think something has not been taken into consideration, ask for the claim to be reassessed.

What next?

Local councils are calling on the Government for financial help to fix the UK’s roads following the recent storms. The current estimate for repairs is £400 million. This is on top of the £10.5 billion repair backlog that already exists.

In December last year, the government gave £30,000 to back the development of a smartphone application to report potholes. When the app is launched, which is expected to be in February, iPhone users will be able to report potholed roads to their local council.

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