Road users claim £20 million compensation for pothole damage

New Which? research reveals that potholes are causing so much damage to vehicles that local councils last year paid road users more than £20 million in compensation.

Last year local councils in England and Wales paid a total of £22.8 million in compensation to road users for damage caused by potholes, with councils in the north west of England paying out the most at £8 million.

After two cold winters, the Government commissioned a Potholes Review in 2011 and allocated an extra £200 million for local highway authorities, citing a ‘significant increase in the number of potholes on the already fragile local highway network’.

Despite this, our research found that the backlog of road repairs per local authority in England is getting bigger.  Since 2009, the backlog of pothole repairs has grown from £53.2 million to £61.3 million in 2012 on average per local authority inEngland.  It is estimated that it would cost £12.93 billion to clear the entire road maintenance backlog in theUK.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said:

“Potholes are a menace for all road users. With temperatures plummeting this week and the bitter weather conditions set to continue, the backlog of repairs could grow again. Drivers should help themselves and everyone else on the road by pointing out potholes to the local council.”

Pointing out a pothole

If your car has been damaged by a pothole, you may be able to claim compensation from the council. However, the likelihood of claims being successful depends on whether the local authority was aware of the pothole in the first place and hasn’t repaired it, or if it hasn’t followed road maintenance guidelines.

Potholes can be reported via a council’s website and you can find out which council is responsible for maintaining a road by visiting the Directgov website and entering the road name, town or postcode.

Making a claim

  • Take a photo – when making a claim for any damage caused to your vehicle, make sure you include evidence to support your claim such as photos of the pothole and the damage to your car.
  • Know your roads – if your car was damaged on a motorway or A-road, then you will need to submit your claim to the relevant highways agency and if the damage was caused on a private road, then you will need to submit a claim against the owner.
  • Extra costs – while you may be able to claim for damage to your car, you may not be compensated for the inconvenience caused or any travel cost that you might incur while the car is being repaired. If your claim is rejected, you can use the small claims court but it is advisable to seek legal advice first.

Notes to editors

 1. Regional breakdown of 2012 compensation figures

English region                                    Amount paid in compensation in 2012 (£)
East (9 reporting authorities) £0.3m
East Midlands(6 reporting authorities) £0.1m
London(24 reporting authorities) £3.2m
North east (10 reporting authorities) £1m
North west (17 reporting authorities) £8m
South east (13 reporting authorities) £2.7m
South west (11 reporting authorities) £1m
West Midlands(7 reporting authorities) £1.8m
Yorkshire & Humberside (10 reporting authorities) £3.3m


Wales (14 reporting authorities) £1.4m

Overall, the backlog of repairs in England has increased from £53.2 million per local authority in 2009 to £61.3 million in 2012


Backlog of repairs






East Midlands






North east



North west



South east



South west



West Midlands



Yorkshire & Humberside




Average backlog of repairs per local authority in England



Average backlog of repairs per local authority in Wales



3. We used independently verified data from local authorities, which is collated by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) for its Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey.

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