Drivers win £46,000 for pothole damage after council accepts 60% of claims

Around 60 per cent of claims made against Northumberland County Council for cars damaged by potholes last year were successful.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 13 June, 2019, 10:45
Stock picture of a pothole after figures reveal drivers won £45,000 in claims over damage to their cars

Data released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act shows that in 2018-19, drivers made a total of 253 claims, of which 150 were successful.

This is noteworthy because motorists can only claim if the authority responsible for the road has been negligent.

A road repair team at work

What’s more, councils have a statutory defence in that they cannot be held liable for a defect they are not aware of – either because it has not been reported to them or has not been picked up by their own system of inspection and maintenance.

In the 2017-18 financial year, there were a larger number of claims – 407, but just 40 per cent (167) were successful.

The total cost to the taxpayer of the successful claims, including legal fees, was £45,966.07 in 2018-19, up from £41,889.10 the previous year – despite the slightly lower number of successful claims – and the highest total since the £61,513.46 paid out in 2013-14.

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The breakdown of figures across the council’s four highways area teams – north, central, west and south-east – shows that the most claims were made in relation to roads in north Northumberland. There were 108 in total, two-thirds of which were successful.

Other figures show that a total of 63,779 defects on Northumberland’s roads were reported in 2018-19, either by members of the public or from the council’s own highways inspections.

This is over 5,000 more than were reported in the two previous years – 58,240 and 58,571 respectively.A county council spokesman said: “With over 3,000 miles of road, we have one of the largest highway networks in the North East and over the last year we filled in more potholes last year than any other council in the country – almost 70,000.

“Clearly there was a major spike in road deterioration in the winter of 2017-18 as a result of the bad weather which culminated in the Beast from the East. This would explain the significant number of defects in early 2018.

“The greater number of defects may have led to more claims than usual being received and more being successful.

“We continue to take the quality of road surfaces and repair of potholes very seriously – and invest considerable time and resources in making ongoing improvements to our road network.”