George Osborne has today announced that the Government will provide additional funding of £100 million to help councils repair potholes.
While the central funding will go some way to repairing the roads it remains to be seen exactly how much of a difference the funding will make.
The perfect storm of prolonged underfunding, heavier traffic, a couple of colder than usual winters (or ‘extreme weather events’ if Government parlance is preferred) have all contributed to a network of broken roads and some estimates put the total bill for repair of Britain’s roads in the region of £1 billion.
The impact and cost to road users is staggering. The insurance providers, Warranty Direct, state that 6% of cars in the UK sustain damage to tyres, wheels, steering and suspension parts from potholes. Those unfortunate enough to sustain damage to their vehicle – and who have no desire to wave goodbye to their no-claims bonus by claiming on their own insurance policy – will need to contact the local authority with responsibility for maintaining the stretch of road where the damage occurred.
Some useful tips for those who have suffered vehicle damage from potholes:
Make a note of the location of the incident. The name of the road, and if outside a residence then the house number. Call the council as soon as possible to notify them of the pothole.
Where it is safe to do so, take photographs of the pothole both up close and from a distance so that the position of the hole on the road is clear. Measurements of the width and depth of the pothole are a good idea, and if a tape measure or ruler is not to hand then a pen, CD case or other common item should give a sense of scale.
Take names and addresses of any witnesses where possible. If you have been injured ensure that you take medical advice from a hospital or your GP.
Write a detailed and courteous letter to the local authority. Enclose photographs of the pothole if possible or at least a detailed description of the location. If you have had your vehicle repaired or inspected then enclose copies of the invoices or quotes.
The local authority has a duty to maintain the highway; however, to the frustration of many motorists who have had to swallow costly repair bills or the loss of their no-claims bonus, the local authority will have a potential, but not insurmountable, defence if they can show that they have a process of inspection and they can show that upon the last inspection the condition of the road was adequate. For example, if the average road has an inspection once every 6 months, and the pothole giving rise to the claim appeared after the time of that last inspection, then the council can escape liability if they are able to show that they were unaware of the hazard.
Unfortunately, where the claim is for vehicle or property damage alone then the motorist is unlikely to be able to recover much, if any, of the cost obtaining advice or instructing solicitors to deal with the case for him, even if the claim which is initially denied by the local authority is subsequently successful. However, where injuries are sustained either by the driver of the vehicle or any of the passengers then they should obtain legal advice from a specialist firm of solicitors.