23/01/2018 By Joe Finnerty, Digital Motors Editor
GONE TO POT The ‘lethal’ size a pothole needs to be before you can make a claim – and why councils won’t fix it until then
Guidelines for councils means potholes are getting bigger before they even get looked at – causing damage to your car and dangerous problems for cyclists
SLASHING local road budgets for fixing potholes is having a potentially “lethal” effect, according to experts.
Potholes that are 40mm or below don’t even qualify for investigation under government guidelines introduced in October 2016.
It states councils aren’t obliged to send an inspector unless it gets bigger than this size – the equivalent of two 20p pieces stacked on top of each other.
That’s despite that being more than big enough to damage suspensions and wheels – and even knock a cyclist over.
It’s only once a defect gets deeper (and is around 20cm-30cm wide) that a highway inspector will investigate and consider whether a repair is needed.
In some councils it could hit 60mm before it’s classed as urgent.
Latest figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) revealed spending on minor roads fell last year to compound the problem.
And Edmund King, AA president, said: “Potholes have contributed to at least three cyclists lives. A systemic downgrading of inspection and repair standards for potholes introduces a new level of potential lethality.
“If the Government and local authorities want drivers to leave their cars at home and cycle to work and on short journeys, making roads more treacherous for two-wheelers is not the way to do it.”
The 40mm limit also means it’s even harder for Brits to claim compensation, too.
If your car is damaged in a pothole smaller than this, you’ll likely have to fight tooth and nail for a payout – and it’s not guaranteed.
Motorists reported a million holes last year with councils paying out £3million to damaged motors.
And it’s estimated that the total depth of all the potholes in the UK is four times deeper than the deepest section of the Pacific Ocean – around 25 miles.
HOW TO CLAIM FOR POTHOLE DAMAGE
Pothole damage costs UK motorists £730million a year – an average of £110 each but you might not always have to foot the bill.Compensation from the council or Highways England is possible although it’s not straightforward.
First, you should ensure you take notes and photos at the scene and record the exact damage plus the size and shape of the pothole along with any contact details of witnesses.
You’ll most likely need to get the damage repaired immediately but if you can, ring around for several quotes so you can provide evidence during a claim that you’ve searched for the best price.
You should also flag up the pothole via the online service. https://www.gov.uk/report-pothole
Then, to submit your claim, write a letter to the council or Highways England (if it’s an A-road or motorway) outlining where the damage was caused, the extent of it and that you’re holding them liable.You’ll get a response, often within a couple of weeks and likely a refusal to pay under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 – a one-size-fits-all defence that says all reasonable steps to maintain the road were taken, and all potholes were dealt with in a timely manner.Once this happens, you’ll need to determine if the council has fulfilled the Section 58 obligations by asking questions about the scheduling and quality of inspections and repairs on the road.If you believe you have a case write again outlining your findings. The council will either pay up or leave you with the choice of going to small claims court.Small claims court is fairly cheap and easy but you need to decide if it’ll really offset the cost of the repairs and time invested.