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What to do if you hit a pothole

Potholes can annoy even the calmest driver, and sometimes they don't come into view until the very last minute, when we've no other choice but to bump over them.

But potholes are more than a nuisance; they're dangerous, too. They can cause us to act irrationally behind the wheel, swerving to avoid hitting one. And deep ones can do some serious damage to our cars, specifically the tyres, wheels and steering.

What causes potholes?

Potholes mainly form due to a fluctuation in hot and cold temperatures, which makes the rain water on our roads expand and contract. This means potholes are most common in winter and early spring, though you'll start noticing more of them throughout autumn.

1. Assess the damage

If you've reason to believe your car's been damaged by a pothole, pull over in a safe place to inspect your car's tyres and wheels. Bear in mind, though, not all damage is visible – for instance, you could later discover the steering has been affected if your car starts pulling to the left or right.

2. Record your findings

The more information on the incident you have, the better. Ask witnesses for their contact details, take photos of the pothole if it's safe to do so (or sketch it), and make notes on its exact location. It can help to take a picture of the hole alongside a familiar object which will give an idea of its size. You should always use your common sense though, if the pothole is on a busy road, do not try to take photos if there's any traffic around.

3. Report the pothole

By reporting the pothole, you could speed the process in getting the road fixed and stop other drivers from damaging their cars. FixMyStreet allows you to report potholes along with issues such as defunct street lighting and broken paving slabs.

4. Make a claim

Having a claim for damage accepted will largely depend on whether the pothole has been reported; if the council claims they weren't aware of it, your chances of receiving a payout are slim. Still, once you've taken the above steps, you should:

  • Keep hold of quotes for repairs, and/or invoices and receipts if you had to get the damage repaired urgently
  • Make a claim to the relevant council or authority, sending copies of quotes/receipts and invoices, as well your evidence of the incident
  • If they believe you have a valid claim, normal protocol is for them to send you a damage report form, and you'll have to provide additional information such as your MOT certificate
  • Negotiate with the council on costs for repairs, and consider appealing your claim if it's rejected
  • You do have the option of taking your case to the small claims court, but you should seek legal advice first.

You could claim for damage on your car insurance policy, but it may not be worth it once excess is considered. Plus, you might lose your no claims discount if you haven't protected it. If you did want to talk to us about making a claim, we're always happy to help.

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