Last updated on April 11th, 2022
It seems as though in times of financial pressure issues such as repairing potholes in the road by local authorities become ever more neglected. A report by the RAC Foundation shows that a staggering 31,000+ pothole compensation claims were made in the financial year 2015/16 for vehicle damage because of poor road conditions. While this works out at a claim every 17 minutes it is interesting to note that just 26.9% of claims were successful and despite average claims of £432, successful claims averaged a pay out of just £306.
Historically, pothole compensation claims were a target for scammers and fraudsters although the relatively small level of successful claims would seem to back up a change in tactic by the local authorities. In times gone by many local authorities found it cheaper to pay out on pothole compensation claims rather than go through the courts to challenge them. However, these days are over, leaving the way clear for legitimate pothole injury claims to proceed as normal.
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All pothole compensation claims arising from injuries sustained on public highways will refer to Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 which sets out the legal obligation of local authorities to maintain public highways. As a consequence, in the event of damage to a vehicle or injuries incurred it is the local authority which will be taken to court when claimants seek compensation.
Over recent years there have been many instances where potholes have caused injuries to pedestrians and road users and also damage to bicycles or other vehicles but negligence against local authorities has not been proven. If the local authority is able to prove it took reasonable action to avert personal injury or damage to vehicles this defence can avert a ruling of negligence in a pothole injury claim. This may take in issues such as regular highway inspections where no defects were visible and as a consequence no action to take at the time. There is a legally recognised three-month inspection period which can be used as a defence. This means that if for example a road had been inspected on 1st August with no issues and an accident had occurred within the three months after the inspection, the local authority would likely be found not guilty of negligence.
In the event that the council was made aware of potholes and other damage to public highways this is likely to be a simple case of negligence exposing the local authority to potential compensation awards.
There are very few roads and pavements up and down the UK which are not visited by an array of other bodies, such as utility companies, often digging up long stretches of road. Even though the local authority is legally obliged to maintain public highways, where pothole damage has been caused by a third party, such as a utility company, the local authority can pass any pothole compensation claims to them. There are very detailed regulations with regards to the maintenance of public highways and it is not only the local authorities, but also numerous third parties, who are legally obliged to abide by the regulations.
This is an interesting twist on the legal obligation to maintain highways which many people were unaware of.
Damage and injuries such as sprained ankles sustained from potholes on private roads or private property as a consequence of ill maintained roads and pathways can lead to landowners or occupants being pursued for compensation. In many instances, the cost of repairing damaged roads and pathways has risen to a level which is unaffordable for many private landowners or occupants. Unfortunately, unless they are able to prove they serviced their duty of care to the roads and pathways on their land they could well be open to pothole compensation claims in the event of vehicle damage and/ or personal injury.
When you bear in mind the cost of repairing broken vehicle suspension, and potential pothole injury claims, pay outs can be significant even for private landowners.
The Judicial College will regularly issue compensation guidance notes for the courts and insurance companies when addressing pothole accidents where personal injury has occurred. These guidance figures are updated on a regular basis and will take in an array of issues such as:
- Extent of the injury;
- Recovery period;
- Long-term impact.
The guidelines are often referred to as general damages and will be considered on a case-by-case basis. There is also another type of compensation which is called special damages that relates directly to financial redress and financial expense going forward. This type of compensation will take in issues such as:
- Medical expenses incurred;
- Future medical expenses;
- Loss of earnings;
- Future loss of earnings;
- Additional equipment required;
- Adaptions to the home;
- Transport expenses.
While general damages offer a degree of variation depending upon the severity of injury, and the degree of negligence, special damages are purely financial compensation for expenses incurred and forecast expenses going forward. More information on the difference between general damages and special damages can be found on this page.
The compensation payouts calculator found below can be used to help people injured by potholes calculate what level of compensation they may be eligible to claim for. Although the figures are average claims amounts for injuries that may be suffered in a pothole accident, for a better evaluation we’d advise speaking with our pothole accident claims solicitors so they can factor in everything attributed to your injury.
The RAC survey also casts a very interesting light on the issue of pothole compensation for injury and damage.
- Pothole compensation claims have fallen from 42,943 in 2013/14 down to 25,471 in 2015/16.
- The success rate has increased slightly from 23% up to 27%.
- The value of successful claims has fallen substantially from £2.9 million in 2013/14 to £1.55 million in 2015/16.
- Pothole compensation claims increased from 4,511 up to 4,733 over the same period.
- The success rate has increased slightly from 25% up to 27%.
- Total compensation payments fell from £228,000 down to £162,000.
- Pothole compensation claims fell from 1,491 down to 1,279.
- Although the success rate has increased from 18% up to 33%.
- The amount of compensation paid out has fallen from £72,000 down to £62,000.
Overall, across the UK between 2013/14 and 2015/16 total compensation paid out as a result of injuries/ damage caused by potholes has fallen from £3.2 million down to £1.7 million. This perfectly illustrates the tougher stance taken by local authorities with regard to pothole compensation which has attracted more than its fair share of fraudulent activity. However, it is still worth noting that valid pothole injury claims where there is evidence of negligence will still receive the appropriate level of compensation.
They say that a picture is worth a 1000 words and this is certainly the case when it comes to filing pothole injury claims. It is highly advisable to take a picture of the damaged road or uneven or damaged pavement, whether private or public, as well as visible evidence of any damage to your vehicle if applicable. Where a pedestrian, driver, passengers, or unsuspecting third parties have been injured, medical attention should be sought as soon as possible. Seeking medical attention will ensure that treatment is administered as soon as possible and that all injuries and the specific circumstances are noted on an individual’s medical records.
It is also very important to make a note of when the incident happened, where the incident happened and the injuries/ damage caused. In many instances, there will be witnesses who are able to confirm the timeline and events in question. While not always the first thought on your mind in the event of an accident caused by a pothole, it is imperative that witness details are gathered and statements taken. If your pothole injury claims solicitor believes you have a valid claim then you will likely offer a No Win No Fee based agreement on which to proceed.
Once a pothole injury claim has been started, the defendant must be made aware of the details and the evidence to hand. If there is an obvious case of negligence then it is likely that the local authority, or the private landowner/ occupant, will look to settle the pothole injury claim out of court. This will save court time and further legal expense with the details of any compensation award thrashed out between representatives of the defendant and the claimant.
In recent times we have seen more pothole accident claims going to court as the authorities look to stamp out fraudulent activity in this area. As you will see from the figures above, this strategy seems to have been successful while still maintaining a fair hearing for valid pothole injury claims.