I'm driving often with my own car abroad (EU) and even on highways there are potholes. What can I do if my car gets damaged?

Is there an EU-regulation or is it different in every country? What should I do to prove what really happened? Are photos enough?

  • Is this for your insurance or for DOT(?)s in the country this happened? – Karlson Feb 26 '13 at 16:16
  • my insuarance doesn't cover damage caused by potholes – Dirty-flow Feb 26 '13 at 16:18
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    I would be highly surprised if there is another option than just taking your loss. – Bernhard Feb 26 '13 at 16:21
  • Out of curiosity, in which country and road did you encounter these? – Saaru Lindestøkke Feb 26 '13 at 18:13
  • @BartArondson for example: CZ Prague-Brno, almost every highway in Bulgaria and Romania. In central europe the roads are much better, but there are also pothales in Germany – Dirty-flow Feb 26 '13 at 22:06

[Disclaimer: my predictions of the behaviour of insurance companies are based on my experience with North American ones. I have no reason to believe European ones are different.]

The word pothole has two meanings. The first is a small area of road a few inches lower than the rest, with sharp edges:

small area of road a few inches lower than the rest, with sharp edges

This really shouldn't damage your car. If it does, any insurance company could probably say it was your fault for not driving in accordance with the road conditions. With proper driving, a steady diet of this kind of road might require a "front end alignment" more frequently than usual. It is not worth your time to try to get someone else to compensate you for that. If you break an axle or something else dramatic, it will probably be as a result of improper driving.

The second meaning of pothole is a huge round hole that can swallow entire cars:

huge round hole that can swallow entire cars

This picture might be fake, but it depicts something that does happen

Should you meet one of these, I suspect your insurance company will go after whoever designed, built, and maintained the road, seeking compensation for your damages. They'll pay you and save you the trouble of pursuing the relevant local government yourself. That's one of the purposes of insurance.

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    If that one is This one isn't – Karlson Feb 26 '13 at 16:49
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    It is not fake, that's in Saudi Arabia. This happens a lot in desert areas if there is groundwater underneath, sand under streets will not be stable and causes this. – Nean Der Thal Feb 26 '13 at 18:48
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    what do you expect without proper foundation I see only 10 cm of asphalt on top of sand, – ratchet freak Feb 26 '13 at 19:21
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    In my experience the huge ones are more often called sinkholes. – Nate Eldredge Feb 27 '13 at 3:45
  • @NateEldredge in North America, yes. Elsewhere in the world, perhaps in places that don't have the freeze-thaw cycles that cause the shallow ones, I've heard the huge ones called potholes (because they are round, I believe.) – Kate Gregory Feb 27 '13 at 14:00

As @KateGregory pointed out the behavior of insurers and local governments will significantly differ between North America and Europe but apparently there are ways and countries that you can actually claim money from local/provincial/other government agencies responsible for fixing the roads you're driving on.

One thing to note. There are Automobile Associations like:

Who provide coverage (additional or otherwise) and other help for motorists traveling domestically or abroad with situations just like yours.


Since you mention Czech highways. I'll add my two cents. You are obliged to customize your way of driving to the wheather conditions and quality of the road. So if you think that the highway can damage your car when you drive the allowed 130kph, you should slow down. There is nobody to pay your car damage.

This is discussed in §18 of the law 261/2000 Sb. Unofficial English excerpt from that law follows:

The driver is oblidged to accustom the vehicle speed to ... construction and technical conditions of the road, its category and class, ...

Since you seem to know that the technical conditions of the roads in Czech Republic are bad, you are oblidged to slow down. There is a forum post complaining that a driver was fined CZK 200 (cca EUR 8), after he damaged his car on a large pothole.

(Yes, and welcome to Czech Republic /shrug)


I am not sure if this applies to all EU countries since there is Common law in the UK and Civil law in the rest of the EU. Since I am not a lawyer, I don't know the local differences. In the benelux there is the principle that everybody bears their own risks. This is the starting point in liability. There should be compelling reasons to deviate from this principle. So you need to prove the damage was actually caused by the condition of the road and not a condition that has been there for a while only to surface now.

I found one page on the web indicating what you need to do if it happens to you in Flanders (Belgium). http://www.vlaanderen.be/nl/mobiliteit-en-openbare-werken/wegen/schade-aan-uw-wagen-door-slecht-wegdek-wegenwerken">Here is the google translated version

I would recommend to follow these procedure, for example filing a police report. I am only afraid that I have to agree with @Bernard, that you should take your loss. Filing a complaint at least makes the civil servants responsible for the bad condition work a bit.

  • that link looks fine when you edit, and previews fine, but doesn't come out right. Anyone know why? – Kate Gregory Feb 27 '13 at 1:12
  • @KateGregory Probably because there's a URL within the URL and the Markdown parser is failing somehow. – Ankur Banerjee Feb 27 '13 at 2:21

In Poland you can get a compensation up to 3 years after the damage. Here is the procedure:

  1. You have to know who is responsible for this particular road (in case of main roads it is http://www.gddkia.gov.pl) and contact with them.
  2. You have to prove that your car was damaged due to pothole. Very good evidence is e.g. police report (you can call the police just after the damage to make a report).
  3. Wait 30 days for the decision.

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