Andrew Hamilton's weekly motoring clinic.


The Help Desk is indebted to other readers for their helpful stories about what happens when tyres are damaged by potholes. The common assumption is that it's tough luck if it happens, a matter of paying up and fulminating about local authority negligence.

Not so, according to the experience of some correspondents and we pass on these to a wider audience that may have been affected.

First, we have an e-mail from Peter Coogan, of Celbridge, Co Kildare. He says that contrary to popular myth, local authorities are, in fact, liable for pothole damage.

"My wife hit a Kildare pothole at very slow speed but it was so deep that a tyre and wheel trim were destroyed. I took pictures of the pothole and the damage and sent them to Kildare Co Council. Predictably, we got a denial of liability.

" I then contacted the Small Claims Court, filled in a form and paid a small fee and sent copies of photographs with the claim.We received full payment from Kildare Co Council within 10 days."

According to Peter Coogan, the essential thing is to prove what is called in law, a misfeasance. "In other words, it must be shown that the pothole had been repaired previously and the incident is therefore the result of inadequate repair. Most potholes meet this requirement and show it by a patch of old tar around the hole."

His advice is that a camera in invaluable in such a situation and that nobody should travel without one.

Jon Pierson of Caulstown, Bellewstown, Co Meath, tells us of making a claim against Meath Co Council via the Small Claims Court back in 1998.

"Your correspondent correctly made his first approach to the council responsible - but then he made the mistake of believing their statement that they were not legally responsible and giving up too quickly."

Jon Pierson helpfully says that for a fee of €7.62, a claim for damages up to the value of €1,269 may be pursued through the Small Claims Court.

"My experience with Meath Co Council was that it did not put forward a defence. So no case was heard and judgement was made automatically against them. A cheque for full restitution followed shortly thereafter."

Finally, A Guide to Small Claims in the District Court is available (in PDF format) via the Government website at

Second cars
Philip O'Toole of Dublin 5 thinks he has the answer to David Bradley's problem of insuring a second car.

"He could purchase a classic car. It would have to be 15 years or older and be of classic status like Mark One Golfs, VW Beetles and Minis. He could then insure it as a classic under a 4,000 mile limited policy with Carol Nash. The cost of a third party policy with a 4,000 per annum mileage limitation, based on his details, will cost him around €300 to €350."

His advice for Nigel Bannister who hit the pothole in Lucan, is to take Fingal Co Council to the Small Claims Court. "Take a photograph of the pothole and the damage to the car."

MPV advice

Jane O'Gorman from Cork seeks advice about a family MPV. She likes the idea of a third row of seats, especially for the children, but is put off by the thought of a rear end shunt.

"I've now discovered that vehicles like the Opel Zafira MPV, which I actually like a lot, have not much space for luggage when the third row is in place. Are there any alternatives you can recommend?"

Why not have a look at the Fiat Multipla? It offers six seats, all the same size and status, and there's ample luggage room. There is, perhaps, only one problem: the looks may put you off. That said, the Multipla is immensely practical and spacious.