Can You Claim on Damages Caused by Potholes?

Severe wet weather has caused potholes and damage to roads across NSW. Poor road surfaces, such as those caused by unrepaired potholes, are one of the major concerns for drivers in and around Sydney. As well as being dangerous, pot holes can cause significant damage to your car’s steering, suspension, tyres, and rims. Damage from potholes can not only impair your vehicle’s ability to function but could cost you a small fortune to have repaired.​ If your car has been recently damaged due to the condition of a NSW public road, you are justified in seeking compensation for what was not your fault.

The Cause of Potholes

Potholes create structural problems on the road and are caused by weakened soil underneath the road’s surface. Due to the recent heavy rainfall and the abundance of water within the road’s underlying soil, the surface of the roads have become vulnerable. With weak foundations, the constant stream of car traffic has further weakened the road’s surface and many large potholes have formed. These potholes have caught many motorists off guard, raising questions about who should pay for the damage incurred to your car.

What happens if my car is damaged by a pothole?

If you suspect that your vehicle has been damaged by a pothole, it’s important that you immediately investigate the damage. Record as much information as you can about the incident, take a photo of the pothole, note the pothole’s location, and try to illustrate the size the pothole. If there are any witnesses, ask for their details so that they can confirm the incident. Once you have gathered enough evidence, you should report the pothole to the your local council. By reporting the pothole to the council, you are encouraging them to repair the road and actively helping other road users.

Get any damages repaired and claim a reimbursement

To be safe on the road, it’s vital that you get your car checked and have any damages repaired immediately. Some pothole damage can be so severe that drivers have no choice but to fork out thousands of dollars in repairs. Local councils have an obligation to pay out for the damage caused by potholes they should have maintained. The onus is also on council to fix potholes immediately to avoid cases ending up in court. Any pothole damage to your car could give you reason to claim.

All local roads are managed and maintained by Council with the exception of declared Main Roads, which are the direct responsibility of the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS). The Civil Liability Act gives broad protection to councils and other road authorities like Transport for NSW. Under Section 45 of the legislation, a claimant would have to satisfy two provisions to be compensated for any damage to their vehicle.

    1) Was the authority specifically aware of that particular pothole (ie. had it been reported formally).

    2) Did they acted negligently in not dealing with that issue in terms of the resources they have available.

 

Therefore, most council claims for pothole damage are denied on the basis of them not being aware of the pothole. They do have a get-out clause: if a pothole hasn’t been reported, the council doesn’t have to pay up. However, if you’re wanting to chase up a reimbursement from your local council, you must show your documentation as evidence to back it up. It should also be noted that this is not an easy process, but it is definitely worth seeing if you can make a claim, especially if you have gathered together enough documentation and evidence.

Take Some Notes

Roads in NSW are managed by local government, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and the Australian Government. To claim for your pothole accident, you should be aware of the laws in NSW. These laws include the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999. This act is designed to enforce state-wide safety on the roads of NSW. Write to the council responsible for the road with the pothole(s). Include all the details you've collected, like copies of your quotes, invoices, receipts, and photos of the scene.  Don’t rely on your memory - it's best to take some notes.

  • Return to the scene, take notes or make sketches.

  • Take photographs of the pothole.

  • Include a familiar object in your photo, like a shoe or drinks can, to give a sense of scale.

  • Make a note of exactly where the pothole was, including the road name, town and its position in the road

  • Take down the contact details of anyone who saw what happened.

Report The Pothole

Councils are responsible for the management of 90% of local road networks. The first thing you do should is report the pothole to your local council so they can fix the hole.  A hit at high speed could make a driver lose control or even crash, so it's important that they're fixed. 

  • You can find a list of all the councils in NSW by clicking here

  • Motorways and main roads in NSW are managed by the RMS.

You should complete the claim for compensation form and include all your documentation on the relevent council website.

References:

Meacham.S (2022). The areas in NSW where cars suffer most damage from potholes. Nine News (Online).

                                 https://www.9news.com.au/national/tyre-damage-caused-by-potholes-revealed-as-majority-                                    of-nrma-callouts-over-last-six-months/4725187c-3fe8-4bbd-98da-f38fe368f872

 

Smith & Jones (2022). What are your rights as a driver if you hit a pothole and damage your car? ABC News,                                               Illawarra (Online). https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-01/potholes-damage-cars-drivers-                                       rights/100958416

Warranty Insurance (2017). Who Pays For My Tyre And Rim Damage After Hitting A Pot Hole? Online.

                                             https://www.warrantyandinsurance.com.au/who-pays-for-my-tyre-and-rim-damage-                                                   after-hitting-a-pot-hole

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