It's been pothole hell on the roads in Cambridgeshire after the big freeze.
Hundreds of motorists are expected to knock on the door of Cambridgeshire County Council asking for cash to pay for the damage to cars caused by the poor road conditions.
If you have had your car damaged by a pothole you may be entitled to compensation.
But while it's the council's responsibility to keep the roads in a good condition – it can reject claims for compensation unless your claim is (unlike the offending potholes) watertight.
Last year the council spent £2.9 million on filling potholes and in 2018 the council is set to spend a further £3 million on pothole repairs and resurfacing roads.
Now figures released using freedom of information laws have revealed what was paid out by the highways authority last year (2017).
There was a total of 243 claims made against the local authority but so far at least just 28 people have won damages.
The lowest amount paid out was £44 and the average single amount paid out in compensation was £125.26.
The total amount paid out in claims was £30,439 but more than a third of that was given to one claimant – for a whopping £12,501.
What the council say
A Cambridgeshire County Council spokeswoman said: “All our claims go through our insurance team, with each claim thoroughly assessed on a case by case basis. This is evident when almost 90 per cent of the claims we receive every year are not agreed.
"We carry out regular inspections to ensure our roads are in a good condition and prevent them from deteriorating. We work hard to maintain our roads and have seen the number of claims halved since 2014/15 from 425, of which 307 were withdrawn.
“This year, because our roads are important to us, we are spending £3 million on pothole repairs and resurfacing roads and, following the announcement from Central Government on Monday, we have been given an extra £1.6 million to tackle our roads.”
What the council is doing about potholes
- Last year it spent £2.9m on filling potholes, this includes almost £1 million received from Central Government through the national pothole action fund
- This year a further £3 million will be spent on pothole repairs and resurfacing roads
The spokeswoman added: "We have a number of ways to fix potholes including our own specialist machine – the dragon patcher:
- The dragon patcher can repair up to 150 potholes a day, it is faster and quieter than traditional methods
- When a pothole is reported to us we inspect and risk assess them to prioritise their repair
- Some potholes will be made safe and then permanently repaired as part of other programmed work, others are monitored as part of our routine inspections
- We work hard to ensure our roads are in a good condition and prevent them from deteriorating. We have set guidance on how to spend the funding available to ensure it is managed efficiently to get the best results
- In order to keep our roads maintained, we rely on people to help us by coming forward and reporting them using our online tool.
- In 2014/15 – we received 425 claims of which 307 were withdrawn. In 2015/16, 300 claims were received, of which 234 were withdrawn."
But what are your rights if your car is damaged by a pothole and what is the best course of action to take?
The best people to sum up your rights when it comes to pothole damage is the team atMoney Saving Expert.
What is a pothole?
According to Money Saving Expert, a pothole is a road defect that causes an immediate risk or hazard.
The website states: "Potholes are usually caused by water seeping down into the road surface, then freezing and creating gaps that widen up into gaping holes in the road.
"According to many councils, in order to count as a pothole the hole must be at least 40mm deep – about the height of two 20p coins.
"If the one you hit wasn't that deep you can still claim, but it could be tougher to get anything back.
"If your car's been damaged by a problem in the road which isn't a pothole – if you've hit a piece of loose pavement, for instance – you may still be able to claim by following the step-by-step system below.
"But your chances depend on how the road defect is categorised by the authority responsible."
The consumer website states: "Hitting a pothole normally causes damage to a cars tyres, wheels or axles, and youll often know immediately that somethings wrong (youll probably hear it).
“In order to claim for the damage, youll have to prove the pothole caused it – that the repairs youre having to shell out for were specifically caused by your impact with the pothole. Your mechanic should be able to put this in writing for you.
“If your vehicle already had a problem, and the pothole made it worse, you can still claim but you wont get the full repair costs back.”
Who is to blame?
Different authorities are responsible for maintaining certain types of road.
Advice from Money Saving Expert states that after you have checked who to contact, you should ask if claim forms can be sent to you, or if you can download them online.
It states: "You can claim if your vehicles damaged and the authority responsible for the road failed to properly maintain it.
"Britains highway authorities and agencies are legally obliged to maintain roads to a safe standard. That includes fixing potholes.”
According to the Money Saving Expert team, if your vehicle has been damaged and you feel the local council hasnt maintained the roads correctly, the amount you can claim depends on the extent of the damage to your vehicle.
The website says that typical car damage claims are between £300-£500.
Some drivers whove claimed have successfully recouped the entire amount – in other cases, theyve won part of the cost.
The website states: “Theres no explicit sentence in law which covers claiming for potholes, but there are laws which force authorities to keep the roads safe – and thats what youll be claiming the authorities have failed to do.”
In England and Wales, the relevant legislation can be found in Parts 42-58 of the Highways Act 1980.
It adds: “For most pothole claims theres a step-by-step procedure you can follow. But if your claims not successful, ultimately the last resort is to go to the small claims court.”
What will happen?
The Money Saving team advises that initially you will get a confirmation of your claim. You might be passed on to a company that handles a councils claims, which could result in a bit of a longer wait.
Usually it is about one month before a response is sent.
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After that, one of three things will happen.
1. You will win and get the full costs sent to you.
2. You may get a partial offer. In this instance Money Saving Expert suggests you should be willing to compromise because pursuing a claim through the courts can be very expensive.
3. Your claim is rejected.