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Potholes need not leave a hole in your pocket, says law firm Gullands

One of the defining characteristics of this year’s hard winter has been the rapid deterioration of our roads and the appearance of potholes.  So serious is the problem that Alastair Darling in his Budget on 25 March announced an extra £100m to help local authorities fix blighted roads.

Potholes can be an expensive irritation for motorists and pose a serious hazard to motorcyclists, cyclists and even pedestrians, yet many road users do not realise that damage caused by potholes need not leave a hole in your pocket.

Leroy Bradley, a partner at law firm Gullands said: “Every year local authorities pay out more than £50million in compensation claims related to the poor state of our roads.  Making a claim is relatively straight forward and does not necessarily need the advice of a solicitor.”

The upkeep of roads will fall either with the Highways Agency for motorways or County Councils for most other roads.  Where the road is privately owned, such as a shared driveway, upkeep of the road will be the responsibility of the owners.

Leroy adds: “Potholes themselves are not defined in law falling under a broader ‘hazard’ definition.  If you believe your vehicle has been damaged by a pothole there are a few things you should do to help your claim.

“You should note where the pothole is, stop your vehicle and take a photograph of the pothole – something that is much easier with most mobile phones now including a digital camera – and if possible measure the size and depth of the pothole.  The support of an independent witness will also greatly help your claim.”

For a claim to succeed the local authority will need to have prior knowledge of that hazard, as Leroy explains: “A claim is unlikely to succeed if the local authority has no knowledge of that particular pothole – motorists should be encouraged to report all potholes, irrespective of whether they suffer damage or not as it may help future claims from other road users or better still avoid a claim arising.”

Unsurprisingly local authorities have been inundated with claims over the winter and with a repair backlog of many months it may be some time before the potholes in our roads are fixed and claims are resolved.

“Local authorities may take longer than usual to settle a claim and may be more likely to dispute claims,” says Leroy.  “If the response to your claim is negative it is possible to seek disclosure via the Freedom of Information Act for the Authority’s records of pothole reports in a particular area, which may help you progress the claim further.

“As most claims will be for relatively small amounts – amounts that would typically be covered by the Small Claims Court – it would not usually be necessary to instruct a solicitor to help progress a claim.

Leroy adds: “However, if an individual suffers injury as a result of the pothole – a motorcyclist falling off his bike, for example – this is potentially much more serious and expert advice may be appropriate.”

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Gullands is one of Kent’s premier law firms, offering city expertise at provincial rates.  Founded more than a century ago, the firm has a well-established and expanding commercial and private client base.  From its offices in Kent’s county town, Maidstone, the firm’s 11 partners and 49 support staff have expertise in all areas of law including corporate, construction and employment.

For further information contact:

Matt Baldwin, Coast Communications
Tel: 01233 503200 / 07930 439739

Leroy Bradley, Partner
Tel: 01622 689700