More than 85,000 defects, including potholes, were recorded on Northern Ireland’s roads in 2020.
The Department for Infrastructure says “historic underinvestment” has made it difficult to solve the problem. The current annual budget for roads maintenance is £96m, and the minister has bid for £120m in the 2021-2022 budget. However, auditors have estimated more than £1bn is needed to bring the road network up to standard.
What is a pothole?
A pothole is where the surface of the road or footway has worn away and a hollow has formed. Other surface defects include damaged or missing paving flags or kerbstones. A defect can form quickly and be a hazard for drivers.
How do I claim for pothole damage?
You wouldn’t always be able to claim but it is worth knowing that over 1,500 successful claims for damage to vehicles caused by potholes have been made in Northern Ireland over the last number of years.
In Northern Ireland, you must make a claim to the Department of Infrastructure.
- A claim can be made by completing a form available on the NI Direct website. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/publications/vehicle-damage-compensation-claim-form
- Send along with photographs, receipts and estimates together with a sketch indicating the location to Transport NI; all contact details available on their website.
- Transport NI will investigate your claim within 6 months of receipt. They may instruct an investigator or loss adjustor.
- If your claim is successful they will offer you a sum of money.
- If you are unhappy with the offer made, or if rejected altogether you can bring your case before a court. This can be a risky, expensive and time-consuming process and therefore it is important to seek legal advice to assess your prospects of success.
How do I report a pothole or defect?
You can report a pothole in your area on the NI Direct website. It is important to report a pothole as it will show the true scale of the road problems in your area and allow councils to demonstrate where extra funding is needed. Report a pothole or defect on: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/report-pothole-or-other-surface-defect.
Should I swerve to avoid a pothole?
Don’t swerve to avoid potholes. It may seem like the best option, but swerving can cause your front wheel and tire of the car to hit the edge of the pothole causing more damage than hitting it straight on. You should also be careful about heavy braking as heavy braking compresses the front suspension of the car and can end up forcing the tire and wheel into the pothole, instead of gliding over it.
Top Tips if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole
- Put on your hazard lights and stop your vehicle where safe to do so.
- Check for damage to your wheels and tyres. If your vehicle shows signs of vibrations or feels like it is pulling to the side call your recovery provider as more extensive damage can be caused by continuing to drive.
- Record your direction of travel and exact location.
- If safe to do so take several photographs from different distances. If you have any objects in your vehicle such as a water bottle, position these inside the pothole to show the perspective of the depth and width.
- Report any defect immediately.
- Take your vehicle to a garage for repairs and wheel alignment. If applicable ask them to note the cause of damage on your invoice. Keep all documentation in relation to your vehicle repairs, including quotes, receipts, invoices, etc.
- Ask neighbours in the area if they are aware of how long the defect has been present.
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