Making a liability claim
In order for a liability claim to be successful, it will be necessary for you to prove negligence or breach of statutory duty on the part of the council.
As the claimant, you must establish three requirements in order to prove negligence:
- the defendant owed you a duty of care
- the defendant was in breach of that duty
- that breach of duty caused the damage/injury
If you wish to make a motor claim it is necessary to prove that the council is at fault for your loss.
Events often occur that are unfortunate but not due to any party's negligence. As such, there is no automatic entitlement to compensation or any guarantee that making a claim against the council will result in the claim being successful.
The onus is on you as the claimant to prove your claim, which includes providing full details of the incident including accurate dates, locations, details of the incident and any relevant witness statements to enable us to investigate the claim properly.
You also have a duty to take all reasonable steps to minimise the value and extent of any loss. Do not dispose or transfer ownership of any damaged property without the prior agreement of the council, as this may affect your claim.
How to make a claim
There are two ways in which you can make a claim. One option is to claim through your own insurer (if applicable) and the other option is to claim directly against the council. Both of these options are explained below. You should read both options carefully and decide which is best for you.
Claiming through your own insurer
If you make a claim through your own insurer, your insurer will most likely cover your loss on a 'new for old’ basis and then seek to recover the costs from the council. If the council is proven to have been legally liable for your loss then your insurer should recover both their costs and any excess payment you have made to them. Your premium payments should not be affected if your insurer makes a full recovery of their costs, however, you may wish to discuss this with your insurer.
Claiming directly against the council
If you wish to make a claim for compensation directly against the council, you can use our online claim form.
There are some important points to note if you wish to make a claim directly against the council:
- We will acknowledge your claim within one working day from the day it is logged on our system and then begin our investigation.
- Once we have acknowledged your claim an officer will be appointed to investigate your claim. The period of investigation will depend on the type of claim. Please see the table below for the anticipated maximum period of investigation for each type of claim. However, we endeavour to make a decision on liability as soon as possible.
Type of claim
40 working days
30 working days
30 working days
- If the council is found to be legally liable for your loss, the council's liability is limited to the value of the loss immediately prior to your incident. In other words, any payments made will not be on a 'new for old’ basis, as would likely be the case through your own insurer. If the claim relates to personal injury, you may be required to disclose medical evidence or attend a medical appointment(s).
- If you claim benefits, any payment made to settle your claim might affect benefits payments and any settlement that is paid to you must be declared.
- The council may explore an option to use the payment of a claim to recover any current debt that you may owe the council (such as any council tax arrears).
- Fraudulent claims will be prosecuted and could result in imprisonment.
Repairing damaged property
As the owner of the damaged property, you are entitled to repair the damage before a liability decision has been reached. Any repairs carried out should be under the assumption that the council will not be reimbursing you for these costs, as liability will not yet have been decided. If liability is then admitted, we will require images of the damage and you will still need to obtain at least two repair estimates before commencing the work.
Alternatively, you may wish to speak with your own insurers or seek legal advice regarding the options that they can provide.
If liability is admitted and the damage is to your vehicle, then Sutton Council is willing to arrange for the damage to your vehicle to be assessed and repaired via our approved repairer, Nationwide Accident Repair Services. We will also be able to arrange for a courtesy vehicle, free of charge, providing you can demonstrate a need for one.
Alternatively, we will require you to provide at least two like-for-like repair estimates. These estimates will be reviewed to ensure they are reasonable and proportionate to the loss.
We would like to point out that the council do not cover betterment and may minus a percentage of the cost of wear and tear.
We would like to remind you that you are under a duty to mitigate your loss, we kindly request that you carefully consider the above options when making a claim against the council.
For our frequently asked questions, please see our FAQ document.
Limitation Act 1980
Under the Limitation Act 1980, there is a timescale within which a liability claim must be made:
- the time limit for property damage claims is currently 6 years from the date of the incident or knowledge of the damage (if later)
- the time limit for personal injury claims is currently 3 years from the date of the incident or knowledge of the injury (if later).
If we are unable to agree settlement within this period, you must issue proceedings before this period has expired and serve the court proceedings against the council. Here you can find a full copy of the Limitation Act 1980.
Sutton Council’s refuse service
As of 1 April 2017, it should be noted that Sutton Council is no longer responsible for refuse and street cleansing vehicles. If you wish to report a motor incident which occurred on or after this date, please contact Veolia's Claims Management Service, Strata Solicitors, Strata House, Blisworth Hill Farm, Stoke Road, Northamptonshire. NN7 3DB or by phoning 0333 700 8023.
Sutton Council’s ground maintenance service
As of 1 February 2017, it should be noted that Sutton Council is no longer responsible for the ground maintenance service. If you wish to report an incident which occurred on or after this date, please email Idverde at slwpenquiries.sutton@idverde.
Epsom and Ewell Borough Council's highway trees
As of 1st April 2017, trees along the Highway in the Borough of Epsom and Ewell are no longer under the responsibility of Epsom and Ewell Borough Council and have been transferred back into the ownership of Surrey County Council to maintain and inspect. Therefore, any claims where damage has occurred after this date should be submitted by email to Surrey County Council.
Help and advice
A liability claim is a legal claim and can be very complicated. You may wish to seek independent legal advice either before you make a claim or if you disagree with any decision reached. Before appointing a solicitor we advise you check how much any legal service will cost and how they will be funded. Alternatively, the Citizens Advice Bureau can give guidance on making a claim. Here, you can find details of your local Citizens Advice Bureau office.
Please note that Liability decisions cannot be referred to the Ombudsman.