Potholes and getting compensation from the local council

At the beginning of February, my car hit a pothole. The front tyre burst, costing £145 to replace. Closer inspection of the pothole showed that it had been ringed with white paint – a sure sign that Buckinghamshire County Council was aware of it. I also measured the pothole and found that it was over 60mm deep.

I emailed my local council with a copy of the invoice and photos of the pothole and asked for reimbursement of the £145.I did not receive a satisfactory reply so I issued proceedings in the Small Claims Court. The council responded by stating that they would defend the claim in full. Today, I received a cheque from the council for £170 – the cost of the tyre plus court fees.

I have to ask why the council even bothered to try and defend my claim. The pothole was clearly known to them, it was over 40mm deep (and should thus have been repaired within 24 hours). It probably cost them several hundred pounds in time and legal fees – all, presumably, in the hope that I would go away.

The moral of the story: If you have hit a pothole and suffered damage, and if you can show that that the council was aware of the pothole, and if it is over 40mm in depth, then don’t take any nonsense. Issuing a claim in the Small Claims Court costs £25 and provided you can prove the above then if seems that the Council is liable. I don’t know how much money the council ringfences for legal fees and payments to cover pothole damage – judging by the way in which they quickly paid my claim, I would guess that it is a considerable sum. Maybe they should use this money to repair and maintain the roads? Or am I being too radical?

Asked on 9 March 2014 by Jeremy Biggs

Answered by Honest John
This is why when anyone hits a pothole and asks me what they should do I refer them to www.fixmystreet.co.uk and www.potholes.co.uk If a pothole is reported to a council via one of these websites it automatically becomes a matter of record.

So if the pothole a reader hits is on one of the sites and has not been filled within a "reasonable" time (say 10 days) then the council is automatically guilty of malfeasance and has to pay. In your case the fact that the pothole had been marked was evidence in itself that that council was aware of the pothole but had not filled it. It may have been scheduled to be filled that day or the next, and this is why the council thought it had a "reasonable" defence.
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