- June 21, 2016
Road maintenance in England & Wales is underfunded by around 55% (£1 billion a year), authorities pay out more than £30,000,000 in compensation claims. If authorities were given the budget they requested, English authorities would take 12 years to catch up on the current backlog!
As soon as it happens report it to the local council, 90% of roads are managed by them and if this road isn’t they will inform you, not only does this speed up the chances of a fix but also makes you look like a caring citizen and not just someone wanting a ‘quick buck’. You don’t have to inform them you’re making a claim YET! Ensure you give them your full details and they’ve got record of you reporting it and enough detail for them to find the pothole.
There is no point trying to claim any money back YET, get your car fixed and ensure you keep all the receipts.
Keep note of additional expenses (e.g. time off work, recovery costs, insurance premium increase etc).
It sounds crazy but if others have reported it and the council have left it untreated your case is going to be potentially solved a lot quicker. Basically, email your local council with an email subject of ‘Freedom of Information Act – Request for Information’, then ask for information relating to the road you had the issue on. REMEMBER you still don’t have to mention you’re making a claim yet, in fact we wouldn’t mention it yet. Write something like this:
“Under the general requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, I would be grateful if you would provide the following information in relation to <insert road name>, <insert town name> and in particular the section between <insert exact location/road> & <insert adjoining nearby road>
They have 20 working days to reply, if they don’t reply in that time, send another letter/email explaining the time has expired and you’re giving them a further couple of days to reply. If they don’t, you can complain to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Councils should be regularly checking roads & repairing them, and must adhere to the “Well Maintained Highways” guidelines, if you can prove their system isn’t good enough or they don’t adhere to the above guidelines you have a good case. If you can’t then most likely your claim will get rejected but this could be as simple as someone reporting the pothole and then the council doesn’t do anything about it for several weeks.
Write a letter to the authority / council ensure you include:
Wait for a response from the authority, most likely they will refuse your claim under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, stating that they have a system in place for inspections.
Stay calm. Don’t do anything you will regret, don’t shout down the telephone at them, don’t send an angry letter back. Most authorities will have been advised by their legal teams to send out these letters as they know the vast majority of people will simply not bother to continue the claim.
This next point you will need your Freedom of information response.
Make notes on how the authority has or hasn’t followed the guidelines and think to yourself if you’ve got a good case or not. It might be worth discussing this with a family member or friend or to seek further legal advice at this point (however it’s not 100% needed)
If you’ve answered No to any of the above points then you MAY have a decent enough case to win.
Now respond to the authority (via email or letter) with how they have not followed the guidelines from above, ensure you only mention the ones that are relevant to your case, include evidence of why. Inform them that you don’t consider that they have satisfied Section 58 (or any other reason they’ve not granted you compensation) & why.
Stay calm. Threats of solicitors, lawyers or courts are not going to help your case. Again remember anything you send/say may be read out in court.
If you’ve pointed out obvious discrepancies, don’t just presume they will pay you. They may have a good explanation of why they didn’t meet them or why they believe your evidence isn’t correct.
Don’t hire a solicitor or start court proceedings without first following the above points.
If your request for compensation has been refused by the authority you will have to think how strong your case is, obviously if you’ve got to this point you probably believe you’ve got a decent case.
It’s up to you how you proceed but hiring solicitors etc will cost you more money and if your case doesn’t win you risk further costs, if you believe you can ‘fight your own corner’ or believe you have a good enough case then going to small claims court will be your best bet, you can complete an application online. Costs start at £25 for Small Claims proceedings, however, further costs may be incurred if it goes to a full hearing. Applying online will save money.
Remember if your case is a small claim – under £10,000 – it may be dealt with using written evidence, without a hearing.
If there is a hearing, you can either:
If you’re unsure on the strength of your case then it might be time for some proper legal advice.
If the council has made you an offer (e.g. the cost of a replacement wheel & tyre) be willing to negotiate it, explaining the additional costs you’ve incurred (time off work, recovery of your car etc). Be fair and don’t take the p*ss.
Good luck and be sure to comment below if you manage to win.