Motorists Fight Back In Battle On Pothole Damage

Mon 28th Nov 2022

Motorists may be encountering record levels of potholes on their car journeys as cash-strapped councils fail to fix their roads, but new analysis has found that those same councils are paying out more in compensation to damaged cars.

Data from Lime Solicitors shows that £32.5 million in pothole-related accident claims have been paid by local councils across England and Wales over the past five years.

An investigation into road defects across England and Wales divulged that between 2017 and 2021, 157 local authorities recorded 5,596 personal injury claims, for which they compensated a total of £32,153,190 − an average of £5,745 for each case.

The findings showed that Staffordshire, Northumberland, Derbyshire, and Lancashire county councils, along with Manchester City Council, spent the most - a combined total of almost £17 million on 1,865 claims.

What the information also reveals, however, is that only one out of every four personal injury claims linked to potholes was settled by local authorities. Drivers are being urged to be aware of the procedures they must follow if they have been harmed as a result of a pothole or road defect.

“Potholes are a plague on our roads and as our findings show, thousands of people are injured by them every year,” said Peter Jones from Lime Solicitors. “However, claims can be difficult to prosecute due to a lack of evidence.

“Councils have a duty to keep highways in a reasonable state of repair. If they neglect to do so, they may be liable for any injury or damage caused. However, the chances of being successful in securing a settlement will depend largely on whether the pothole has already been reported to the local authority as councils have a statutory defence in that they cannot be held liable for a defect they are unaware of – provided they can show they have an adequate system of inspection in place.

“If local authorities can show they had someone drive up and down the road regularly and no pothole was spotted, the claim is likely to be dismissed. Councils have to show very little evidence that an inspection took place and the courts are particularly sympathetic due to budget restraints.

“In our experience, regular inspections by local authorities only need to occur as little as every six or 12 months, depending on the type of road. However, in winter or heavy rain, roads can turn into a mess after just a few weeks – becoming a danger to road users and, in particular, cyclists. While a pothole might result in an expensive visit to the garage for drivers, for cyclists, sometimes fatal or life-changing injuries could be the result.”