Potholes can be dangerous to drivers, as well as to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, sometimes causing personal injury to unsuspecting individuals – even if a pothole is hit at a relatively low speed. Unfortunately, potholes are increasingly common on the roads and pavements in the UK, partly because many local authorities are too cash-strapped to prioritise road and pavement repairs. Understandably, this leads directly to pothole accident claims against the person responsible.
Find out more about making pavement injury claims.
Unfortunately, the problem is getting worse: according to an annual independent survey carried out by the The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), the number of pothole-related breakdowns attended by RAC patrols in 2021 hit a three-year high, with 10,123 incidents in 2021 (an average of 27 per day). The AIA also estimates that one pothole is filled every 19 seconds. And between January 2018 and October 2021, nearly £13 million in compensation for pothole vehicle damage was paid out by the authorities across England, Scotland and Wales.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of a pothole accident which was avoidable, a personal injury solicitor can help you make a pothole injury compensation against the authority responsible.
Get in touch with a trained legal adviser on 0800 234 6438 for free legal advice about making pothole/car accidents claims, and they’ll be able to let you know whether you could make a no win no fee claim. Alternatively, you can complete our online contact form and request a call back to discuss the pothole accident claim process.
However short of cash local councils may be, they or the Highway Authority still have a legal duty to keep road surfaces, pavements and public walkways safe for use and free of the foreseeable risk of injury. Discharging this duty includes ensuring potholes are repaired within a reasonable period of time once they’ve been reported, minimising the risk to drivers and other road users. If they fail in their duties, the council can face pothole accident claims for damage to vehicles and bikes – and, in serious cases, pothole injury claims following road traffic accidents.
If left unrepaired, potholes can worsen over time – further increasing the risks of a bike or car accident, injury and pothole accident claims. For drivers and cyclists, large potholes can lead directly to road accidents as they can cause a sudden loss of control of your vehicle/bike. Pedestrians crossing the road or walking along pavements that are scarred with potholes are also at risk of slips, trips and falls, causing, for example, a sprained ankle pothole injury. It’s only fair that those injured in accidents which happened because of a pothole should be able to bring pothole injury claims or road accident claims against those responsible.
A pothole is a hole in the road which, to put it bluntly, should not be there. They are a hazard which pose a risk of pothole accidents and injury to road users. Technically speaking, a pothole is considered to be a pit – often basin-shaped – in the road that is at least 40mm in depth and 300m wide. If classified by the local authority as a pothole, they must have it repaired within a reasonable time – otherwise they risk a claim. Anything smaller than a pothole is simply a ‘defect’.
You might think potholes are usually the result of poor maintenance by the council, but in reality, they are usually caused by road works and wear and tear. They are also commonly caused by water seeping into small cracks in the road surface. This water then freezes and expands, and when it evaporates once the warmer weather arrives it leaves behind gaps in the road surface – and is likely to widen as traffic continues to pass over it.
Local authorities therefore have a responsibility to inspect the roads and highways regularly so that they can pick up any potential pothole risks and make the necessary repairs. And if they fail to do this adequately, it will only be a matter of time before an accident happens and someone is injured – and pothole compensation claims ensue.
Unfortunately, potholes are rapidly becoming a plague across the UK’s road infrastructure; and local authorities are likely to see a continuing increase in pothole accident claims from road users who have been injured through no fault of their own.
Local authorities tend to use the general classification of 40mm depth as the standard to determine whether or not a pit in the road surface amounts to a pothole. Some councils also require a pothole to be a minimum width – again this varies between councils but most use 300mm as the benchmark. If it doesn’t meet the minimum depth or width, then it will be classed as a ‘carriageway defect’ and you could find it difficult to make a personal injury claim.
In the case of potholes in pavements, a depth of 22mm is considered deep enough to amount to a pothole. In either case, the best way to find out whether you have a case is to get in touch with a trained legal adviser who will be happy to help. Your solicitor will need to be able to prove that:
The vast majority of personal injury claims are made on a no win no fee basis, so anyone can make pothole injury claims under a no win no fee agreement. No win no fee is the way to claim compensation without putting yourself at financial risk. The key advantage is that under a no win no fee agreement, you only pay legal fees and expenses if your pothole injury claim is successful – if you have a pothole claim rejected, you won’t need to pay any money in legal fees or other costs.
And in the case of successful claims, the injured person will receive compensation. Out of your compensation, you will need to pay your solicitor’s success fee as a percentage of your compensation – but this will usually be a small portion of your no win no fee pothole injury claim win (and never more than 25% of the money you receive). Your specialist lawyer will explain the no win no fee claims process to you in more detail and answer any questions you may have.
The presence of a pothole in the road surface or pavement presents a hazard to all road users. Although more likely to cause damage to cars and bikes, sadly mild or even serious injury is not uncommon following pothole accidents. The government has estimated that there were 4,775 accidents in 2021 because of unseen potholes.
So why do pothole accidents happen? A moving car always has all four tyres in contact with the road surface, and if hits or goes over a pothole it can damage the wheel alignment, suspension and the exhaust system. Tyres can also be damaged and hubcaps can be lost. If the pothole causes a road traffic accident at speed, the driver can lose control causing a potentially significant personal injury/fatal accident if it collides with another vehicle or cyclist.
More seriously, if a motorcyclist or pedal cyclist hits a pothole, it’s not hard to see how the accident is far more likely to cause death/personal injuries. This is because the rider is likely to be thrown off their bike and they have little protection compared to a car driver when they hit the ground.
The types of injuries sustained in a pothole accident will depend on the type of road user and vehicle involved and the speed at which it was travelling. However, the typical injuries sustained include:
Pedestrians who trip or fall over potholes are most likely to suffer bone fractures, twisted ankles, back injuries and cuts and bruise injuries. Whether you are a car driver or a vulnerable road user, such as a pedestrian, cyclist or a child, you are likely to be able to claim pothole compensation if you’ve suffered pothole injuries and the accident was avoidable.
Those who have suffered the misfortunate of sustaining a personal injury because of someone else’s negligence has the legal right to claim pothole compensation. You may think that the presence of a ‘mere’ pothole can’t be responsible for causing pain and injury and triggering pothole injury claims, however potholes are the cause of many accidents every day in the UK. Not all pothole accidents cause personal injury, but when they do it’s only fair that injured individuals should be able to make pothole injury claims to compensate them for the harm suffered.
Assuming that the pothole was on a public highway, you can claim personal injury compensation against the local authority or Highways Authority; or if it followed works carried out by a private company, such as a utility company, you can claim pothole compensation. However, for all successful pothole accident claims, specialist solicitors will need to prove liability by showing on balance that:
If your solicitor can demonstrate that the duty of care was breached, you should expect to win pothole compensation from those responsible.
Pothole accidents are typically made against the local authority or Highway Authority. This is because the local council or Highway Authority has a legal duty to maintain public roads and pavements under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 – partly to minimise the risk to road users’ health and safety. They must be able to demonstrate that they monitor the roads for damage, and repair any potholes quickly to reduce the risk of pothole accident claims. So if your injuries were caused by a pothole on a publicly-maintained road, your injury claim would usually be made against the Highway Authority or your local council.
In some cases, the pothole might have been caused by a utility company failing to properly re-surface the road or pavement after carrying out work. If a utility company is responsible for the pothole that caused your accident, your claim would be brought against the utility company instead. If you’re unsure who might be responsible, simply talk it through a specialist personal injury solicitor and they be able to determine this for you.
If your accident was caused by a pothole on privately owned property, such as a shop car park or private camp site, you may be able to claim against the owner of the property if you can show that they’ve failed to maintain it – or, at least, to warn you of the hazard.
Reassuringly, the government is cracking down on companies who leave potholes in roads after carrying out street works. Under new rules introduced in May 2022, it will be easier to make utility companies face financial penalties for poor quality road works and leaving potholes behind. This can only help those who are injured and left with little choice but to bring pothole compensation claims against these companies.
Get in touch with a trained legal adviser as soon as possible for free advice on claiming compensation. Contact them using our online claim form or call for a free consultation on 0800 234 6438 about pothole compensation claims.
Utility companies who carry out street works on average fail 9% of inspections carried out, with the worst performing utility company failing 63% of its inspections
Anyone who has sustained injuries while at work, and it happened through not fault of their own, is usually able to make a personal injury claim against their employer. The vast majority of employers are responsible for the walkways, access areas, roads and carparks within the boundaries of their business premises and they have a duty to minimise the risk of injury to workers and any visitors onsite. If they breach this duty and someone is injured, they can expect to face pothole compensation claims from workers or site visitors.
The fact is, your employer owes you a legal duty of care to protect you from risks to health and safety; and if this duty is breached, they should be held to account. Of course, no one can ever guarantee that accidents won’t happen, but employers have a raft of statutory legal responsibilities that they must comply with to minimise any safety risks.
Employers’ general duties are set out under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. A key responsibility is to carry out regular risk assessments that identify any risks to health and safety and to act promptly if any risks are identified. This would include inspecting paving areas, roadways and carparks and repairing potholes and other defective areas that pose a risk of accident and injury. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states, for instance, that the surface of any traffic route must not be so uneven, potholed, sloped or slippery that any person could slip, trip or fall. The road surfaces must also be regularly repair and maintained.
It’s quite clear how accidents involving potholes at work can occur when workers are using forklift vehicles, pushing loader equipment or driving other work vehicles – particularly on construction sites. However, these are usually avoidable and should not be allowed to happen – and if they do, the employer risks being presented with pothole claims.
Your employer can be held responsible for your injuries if you hit a pothole in a works vehicle or while simply walking around at work and you fall over a pothole. For more information, get in touch with us as soon as possible for free advice on claiming compensation. Contact a legal adviser for free using our online claim form or call on 0800 234 6438 on making pothole accident claims.
It’s not uncommon for the other party to deny responsibility for your accident at first. The local authority may try to rely on a defence under section 58 Highways Act 1980 to avoid your claim. This is a general defence on the basis that the council took ‘all reasonable steps’ to maintain the road and that potholes were dealt with in a timely manner. So, for example, if the local authority can demonstrate that it recently inspected the road in question and no potholes were identified at that time, it may be able to resist paying compensation.
If the council defends your claim, your personal injury solicitors will gather as much evidence as possible to build a robust no win no fee claim proving that it ought to be held responsible for your injuries. For example, they may be able to prove that the pothole did exist prior to the inspection. Important factors relevant to whether the council should be held responsible include:
Your solicitor will explain what information they need from you to build your compensation claim.
To have the best chance of making a successful compensation claim, it is sensible to gather certain information and evidence to help your solicitor prove that the council or utility company responsible for maintaining/repairing the road was negligent. If possible, it can be useful to provide the following:
If you haven’t already done so, it is important to contact the local authority to report the pothole – at the very least, it may minimise the risk of someone else having an accident at the same location.
An essential part of accident claims is that solicitors also need access to the injured person’s medical records to demonstrate the nature and extent of the injuries. They also need to arrange expect medical examination to support injury compensation claims. The medical specialist will then produce a medical report which will be important evidence for your claim. However, you don’t need to worry about the cost of this as your solicitor will organise it in due course, and it will be done under your no win no fee claims agreement.
If you sustained injuries in a pothole accident that occurred on a private road or other private land, your solicitor will need to identify the legal owner of the land. They will then investigate your case before advising whether you have a strong enough case against the landowner. For example, the incident could have happened on a privately-maintained stretch of road leading to houses (ie the roadway has not been adopted by the local authority); or it may have happened on a golf course or retail park; or on a supermarket carpark.
Private landowners and occupiers have a duty of care towards visitors to their premises to avoid accident claims, under section 1 Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 . Specifically, they must “take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there”.
There has to be more than a minor defect in the road to prove s1 was breached, thus paving the way for a compensation claim – it needs to be considered to be objectively dangerous to succeed in a claim. Your solicitor will take as much information and evidence as possible to prove that there was a pothole and that it was dangerous, in order to secure compensation on your behalf.
If you’ve suffered a pothole injury on private land, you can claim compensation on a no win no fee basis. To find out more about the no win no fee accident claims process, get in touch with specialist advisors on 0800 234 6438, or use our contact form and ask for a call back and a free initial consultation. You’ll be partnered with specialist personal injury lawyers who are experienced in accident claims. Solicitors are heavily regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – giving much needed peace of mind.
The amount of compensation you can claim following your pothole accident will depend on injury severity, the effect it’s had on your life and your recovery time. Personal injury solicitors look at each case on an individual basis because every case it different, it’s difficult to suggest exactly how much you could receive before starting your claim.
Your solicitor will look at the full impact of your injury and will work hard to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve. This will compensate you for your actual physical injuries and their impact on your (‘general damages’) and your actual financial losses (‘special damages’). Your expert injury solicitor will work hard to make sure you receive maximum compensation.
The amount of general damages injured individuals receive for successful claims vary greatly, depending on the nature and seriousness of your injury. However, there are formal judicial guidelines which lawyers refer to calculate what someone could be entitled to by way of compensation (The Judicial College Guidelines). For example:
You can see how wide the range of compensation is, depending on the injury. For a rough guideline figure, you can also try our free online compensation calculator. You can also get more information from our pothole accident claims guide here.
The best thing you can do is to get in touch with specialist lawyers for a free initial consultation to discuss your specific situation. Your solicitor will be able to give you a more accurate picture of how much compensation you deserve, as well as the chances of being able to settle your claim.
In 2020, a cyclist who was thrown off his pedal cycle after hitting a pothole in Dorking, Surrey won £100,000 from the local authority
Your injury claim is also likely to include a claim for ‘special damages’ to compensate you for any financial losses that resulted directly from your accident. Your solicitor will ask you for detailed information about the financial impact of your pothole accident before calculating how much to claim. For example, this could be details about:
It’s important to gather invoices, payslips and any other paperwork that will help your solicitor prove to the other side that you should have these sums repaid. Your solicitor will work hard towards securing maximum compensation for you.
Thankfully, sustaining serious injuries following pothole accidents are very uncommon. However, if you are struggling financially as a direct result of your injuries, you may be able to secure interim payments of your final compensation award, to cover any immediate expenses before a final settlement is made.
This is only possible if the other side accepts liability but your specialist lawyer can discuss this issue with you.
A third of drivers in the UK suffer damage to their vehicles as a result of potholes, according to a 2021 survey of 2,000 by the car manufacturer Citroen
If you’ve not yet done so, it’s important to get medical treatment for your pothole injuries – however minor you think they may be. This will be very important for your injury claim.
You should also make sure you report the pothole via the gov.uk/report-pothole website and/or to the local authority as soon as you can. The fact of reporting helps support no win no fee pothole injury claims.
The most important thing you can do is call for free on 0800 234 6438 to speak with a trained legal adviser about making your claim; or you can request a call back by using our online contact form.
It can be very upsetting to see a child injured – and it can be especially hard to accept if the accident happened because of somebody else’s negligence. If your child has suffered an injury in a pothole accident because of the negligence of a highway authority – or someone else – then you can seek help to make a claim on their behalf.
Although you have until your child is 18 to begin the claim (and they then have until they’re 21 to bring their own claim), it’s wise to get the ball rolling straightway while the accident is fresh in your mind and the evidence is more easily available.
Contact a trained legal adviser as soon as possible on 0800 234 6438 or you can request a call back by using our online contact form.
The general rule in personal injury claims is that the injured person has three years from the date of the injury to start formal legal proceedings. After three years, you could be ‘time-barred’ from making a claim, so it’s best to start your pothole claim as early as you can. Importantly, by starting the process early you will have the benefit of remembering clearly what happened and more likely able to contact any witnesses before they move away or change phone numbers.
In the case of an injured child or someone who has lost their mental capacity and is unable to make a claim in their own right, the 3-year time period begins when the child reaches 18 – or when the individual has regained their mental capacity.
For early help and advice about making your pothole claim, speak to a solicitor for free legal advice on 0800 234 6438; or if you prefer, you can request a call back using the injury claims form on this page.
The amount of compensation paid out for pothole damage between 2018 and 2021
In 2021, a pedestrian who was injured after falling on a pothole while crossing the road was awarded £9,000 in injury compensation by Derby City Council
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
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