Who can I sue?
The Local Authorities throughout the UK are responsible for the roads that fall within their area (if they have been adopted by them). This means that if you damage your vehicle due to a road being in a bad state of repair, you can turn to the relevant Local Authority that is local to the road in question and ask them to pay for the repairs.
What does “adopted road” mean?
This means that the Local Authority has taken responsibility for it. On most occasions this will be the case. By way of example, when a new housing development is built the roads on the site usually belong to the developer who purchased the land, whilst the development is in progress. On completion the Local Authority will then “adopt the road”.
To make a claim:
1. Gain as much information as you can on the pothole you hit as soon as possible after you hit it. As long as it is completely safe to do so, take photos using something such as a ruler to give an idea of scale, and measure the width and depth of a pothole. Make a sketch of the area, showing the location of the pothole as best as possible. This is particularly important if there is more than one pothole, as saying you hit "a pothole" without being able to identify the exact one won't help you. Note also the lateral position of the pothole, i.e. was it in the wheel tracks, near the edge of the road, etc.
2. You now need to know certain information about the road and how the Local Authority looks after it. Only the Local Authority will know this so you need to ask them. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 you are entitled to any information (usually free of charge) that is held by a council or highways agency about a road and the safety inspections of it. Armed with these laws you need to send the Local Authority an email with the heading "Freedom of Information Act - Request for Information".
Your email needs to identify the road and ask the following questions:
Armed with the information that you have received from the Local Authority send them a letter and make your claim. Don’t be surprised if they reject the claim to start with. If this happens write back and demand that they look at your claim again.
For more information visit Dean’s website.