Potholes cost UK motorists a staggering £4 billion a year in repair costs.

But unless you have comprehensive car insurance, the buck will stop with you.

Even then, you'll need to weigh up whether it is worth claiming on an insurance policy depending on your excess payments and whether a claim will affect future premiums or a no claims bonus.

And while many councils are promising to get to grips with potholes, the issue is still causing trouble for drivers across the country.

Solicitor advocate Mike Dailly has set out his step-by-step advice for motorists to claim for damages from the council.


Writing in the Glasgow Times, he said: “Local councils are responsible for the maintenance of all roads in their area - except motorways and trunk roads - in terms of section 1 of the 1984 Roads (Scotland) Act.

“The Roads Act doesn't impose liability on a local authority for losses sustained by motorists using roads. A council's liability for financial loss arising from the disrepair of its roads is found in the Scots common law of negligence.

“To succeed in a claim, you must be able to prove a local authority of ordinary competence using reasonable care would have identified the hazard and would have taken steps to correct it.”

If you hit a pothole, here is Mike Dailly’s guide on what to do:

  • When safe to do so use a smart phone to take photographs of the pothole in order to establish it's a hazard.


  • If you don't have a ruler to hand put your keys in the hole when you take a picture to provide a measurable scale. Take a picture of the damage to your vehicle at the location too. Past Scottish court judgments have generally required potholes to be at least 40mm to 75mm deep to be actionable. That's around 3 inches. Some councils require potholes to be at least 300mm wide (about 12 inches) - but it all depends on the particular circumstances.


  • Next report the defect. The easiest way to do so would be to Google search your council’s name with ‘report road potholes’.


  • Keep the receipts from your mechanic to prove loss. If there were any passengers in your car during the incident, ask them to write a short summary of what happened to help prove the damage was caused by the pothole collision.


  • In order to establish negligence, you will have to show the council was at fault. That generally means showing the council was aware of the hazard but hadn't fixed it within the timescale in its "Road Safety Inspection and Repair Manual". This is often linked on your council’s report road faults page.. If you can't prove how long the hazard has been on the road, or don't know if it had been reported in the past, you may have to rely on the council's cycle of inspections.


  • Make a claim using your council’s compensation form. Most can be found by searching your council’s name and ‘pothole claims’.


  • If your claim is refused it will likely be because the council deny liability as it wasn't aware of the road defect. To counter this defence, submit a freedom of information request to the council for the inspection logs for the road where you hit the hazard. You should be able to find the freedom of information request address on your council’s website.


  • If this shows the road was not properly inspected in terms of the council’s inspection manual, you can use the sheriff court's simple procedure to sue for damages. Simple procedure can be commenced online here.


  • On the Scottish courts’ civil online website, you will find all the guidance and help that you may need. You don't need a solicitor to pursue a simple procedure claim but can use one if you choose.