As I am sure everyone is well aware (!), Monday 16 January 2017 is National Pothole Day in the UK!
Whilst it seems there is a day for every cause imaginable nowadays, the intent behind National Pothole Day is serious, given the overall cost of the damage to vehicles (and their occupants) caused by potholes on the UK’s roads. Some such hazards represent a serious threat to the safety of road users and pedestrians, not to mention the nuisance and traffic build-up they can cause if they are not repaired quickly.
The RAC is warning that there will be an increase in the number of potholes on our highways during the winter period “at an unprecedented rate”. It is feared that the bill for road repairs could top £14billion in the next two years, at a time when local authorities are under increasing pressure to make budget savings. Under-funding, coupled with the predicted increased in repair costs, is likely to have a knock-on effect on the number of claims being brought against local authorities. Ironically, committing less money to the repair of potholes may result in authorities paying more out in repairing damaged vehicles or in damages to people injured on the highways.
We regularly receive enquiries from people asking whether they have a right to bring a claim for damage sustained after falling into a pothole, either as a pedestrian or a motorist. As with most types of personal injury claim, the key to bringing a successful claim is to gather as much evidence as possible at the time of the incident (or as soon as possible afterwards).
If you remember the following key tips, you increase your chances of a claim against the local authority being successful:
Take photographs of the hole – do not wait a couple of weeks, the authority may argue that it has got worse in that time. Also, take pictures of any damage to your vehicle or other possessions damaged in the accident.
If possible, use a ruler or tape measure to show the depth of the hole. This is essential, because the general rule is that if the hole is less than one inch deep, your claim is unlikely to succeed.
Obtain quotes for your repairs from reputable local mechanics / garages; they are usually willing to provide a schedule of the repairs needed as well, so you can inform the local authority of the exact damage caused. If your car / bike is not roadworthy as a result of the accident, make sure the repairs are carried out before you drive it again.
If you are injured, seek medical assistance immediately, at your GP as a minimum if the injury is not too serious.
Instruct a solicitor with experience in these types of claim as soon as possible, so you are aware of your rights early in the process and demonstrate to the local authority that you are taking the issue seriously.
Given the likely increase in the number of potholes in the coming months / years, it is wishful thinking to believe the government will take the necessary action to protect public safety and actually save themselves money in the long term. On National Pothole Day, what better time to remind the government of the actual cost of an increase in claims against their authorities if they do not address the matter soon.