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Motorists hit by pothole damage bills fighting back as councils pay £32m in compensation

HIDDEN DANGER: Toby Walne drives through a vast pothole in his low-slung Lotus Elise

This winter, two million new potholes are expected to smash our roads, due to a deadly combination of freezing weather and municipal cuts to road repairs.

These craters cause thousands of pounds of damage to vehicles, as well as serious injuries and even deaths. However, rather than simply paying the cost of a repair, it may be useful to contact the municipality in charge of road maintenance to demand that they pay the bill.

Councils have awarded £32million in compensation to people injured by potholes over the past five years, according to law firm Lime Solicitors. Only one in four claims are successful, but experts believe the figure would be much higher if motorists knew how to defend themselves.

Edmund King, AA President, says, “If you’re willing to be persistent, it’s worth asking for compensation.

On average, the AA received an additional 225 emergency calls every day this month for pothole-damaged cars, bringing the daily average to 1,725. Most are for blowouts and flat tires , costing around £100 to fix, but some involve suspension damage that can cost £1000 or more.

HIDDEN DANGER: Toby Walne drives through a vast pothole in his low-slung Lotus Elise

HIDDEN DANGER: Toby Walne drives through a vast pothole in his low-slung Lotus Elise

These craters cause thousands of pounds of damage to vehicles, as well as serious injuries and even death (File photo of a large pothole in Croydon, London)

These craters cause thousands of pounds of damage to vehicles, as well as serious injuries and even death (File photo of a large pothole in Croydon, London)

If you encounter a pothole, there are simple steps you can take to claim compensation. First, write down the date and time and take pictures of your vehicle and the crater. Ideally, take some measurements too – advice may claim a two inch depth is needed to call it a pothole. Then go to a garage for a repair estimate.

Check websites such as Fix My Street or Fill That Hole to see if anyone else has reported the pothole. If so, you have a stronger case. When you apply for compensation, a form should be available through the council’s website. If the car was damaged on a highway, contact the national highways.

The government had set aside £2.5billion as a pothole fund to help councils maintain the roads from 2020 to 2025 – but there are fears that this funding, hoping to plug ten million craters, was interrupted at some point during the financial crisis. According to trade body Asphalt Industry Alliance, it would take £12.6 billion to fix all the potholes.

Paramedic Mark Davy understands the deadly danger of potholes all too well. He had to witness many fatal road accidents caused by motorists having struck or swerved to avoid a hole in the tarmac.

As an avid motorcyclist, Mark could have been one of the bikers killed in a road accident involving a pothole after hitting one in Epping, Essex, aged 22 and being thrown of his motorcycle. It left him with a broken knee which is now made of teflon and plastic.

A member of campaign organization Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), Mark is deeply concerned about the number of potholes. On journeys from his rural home in Hertfordshire, he travels a dangerous road three miles to the north, near the village of Furneux Pelham.

ROCKY ROAD: Sir Rod Stewart has taken over repairing potholes near his home

ROCKY ROAD: Sir Rod Stewart has taken over repairing potholes near his home

After waiting months for the council to repair the potholes, Sir Rod Stewart (pictured), who lives in Essex, picked up a shovel and repaired the road with friends

Sir Rod repairs a damaged road with his friends

After waiting months for the council to repair the potholes, Sir Rod Stewart (pictured), who lives in Essex, picked up a shovel and repaired the road with friends

During the day, a particular pothole looks like a giant puddle – 5 feet by 10 feet. In the dark, it is invisible. In fact, the apparent puddle is a 5 inch deep crater. For a low-slung car, the damage could cost hundreds of pounds if the hole was crossed at high speed. On a motorcycle, hitting this crater can be fatal if a rider is ejected.

Mark says: “It looks like a puddle, but you can’t tell what’s underneath – until it’s too late.”

Research by MAG reveals that on average, four motorcyclists a year die due to poor road maintenance, and another 70 suffer life-changing injuries.

Hertfordshire County Council, like other local authorities, insists it deals with dangerous potholes quickly – but the road outside Furneux Pelham has been in poor condition for more than a year year.

The same problem was faced by rock star Sir Rod Stewart, who lives 14 miles south in Essex. After waiting months for the council to repair the potholes, Sir Rod took a shovel and repaired the road with some friends.

Hertfordshire County Council says: “The majority of potholes that require prompt attention are repaired within five days or 20 days, depending on the size of the pothole and road traffic.”

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