How can I force council to pay for pothole damage to my alloy wheels?
Our consumer lawyer answers your questions
I BURST my tyre and damaged an alloy wheel after driving over a pothole. I called the council but was told that while I am legally entitled to make a claim, it is unlikely to be upheld. What can I do to boost my chances of winning?
J.P., via email.
LOCAL authorities do not like pothole claims and, as such, they often deny liability and reject them. For this reason, it is important to know what your rights are and the law that underpins them before making a claim.
The law relating to potholes and liability for road maintenance is predominantly set out in the Highways Act 1980.
The Act outlines the legal responsibilities and duty of care of road owners (normally highway agencies and local councils). They must ensure roads are safe and passable, so as to avoid causing injury (or damage to property) to those who use them.
However, it is important to know that Section 58 also provides authorities with a defence (known as a statutory defence) to claims. This allows a council or highways agency to defend claims on the basis that they had taken reasonable measures to ensure problems such as potholes are found and dealt with swiftly.
All councils should have a system in place whereby they regularly inspect roads and, if necessary, repair them. Provided they have followed their system as they should, and can show the pothole in question had not already been reported to them, they may be able to reject your claim.
However, if you can prove they have not, or that their system differs from the national recommended standards for highway maintenance, then you may be able to claim.
You can therefore see that to make a successful claim, you need first to do some homework so you have a full appreciation of what steps the authority has taken in relation to maintenance and what it already knew, or did not know, about the pothole.
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 entitle you to information held by a council or highways agency about a road and the safety inspections of it.
When you make your claim, you will need to send photographs of the pothole (showing the location on the road and the width and depth of the pothole) and the damage to your vehicle; and a quote to show the cost of repair. You must also provide details of the date and time of the incident. Ultimately, you will need to state that after doing your research you have clearly concluded that the authority has no defence under Section 58, as it has failed to properly maintain the road in question. MY STAYCATION in Cornwall was cancelled due to flooding following storm Ciaran. Am I entitled to get my money back, and can I claim compensation?
E.W., via email.
WHEN a consumer books a service or pays for goods but does not receive what they paid for because it cannot be provided (as here), there is an automatic right to a refund under the Consumer Rights Act.
However, it is highly unlikely you will be entitled to compensation, as the terms and conditions will likely contain what is known as a force majeure clause.
This means the holiday property owner is not liable if it is unavailable due to an ‘act of God’ — a circumstance that was unpreventable and not of their making, such as a storm or flood.
■ WRITE to Dean Dunham, Money Mail, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY or email email@example.com. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given.