‘Thin defence’ over county pothole claim

The Whittlebury to Silverstone road pothole in January, together withe damage done to the car driven by Tim Foster from Towcester.
The Whittlebury to Silverstone road pothole in January, together withe damage done to the car driven by Tim Foster from Towcester.

A businessman from Towcester has accused the highways authority of relying on a legal loophole after his pothole compensation claim was refused on the basis an inspection of the road was carried out seven months before.

Tim Foster runs a printing firm, but after setting off for work at around 6.30am in late January this year, his working day was wrecked after hitting a pothole.

Towcester resident Tim Foster had his pothole compensation claim turned down as the road was inspected seven months prior to his accident.

Towcester resident Tim Foster had his pothole compensation claim turned down as the road was inspected seven months prior to his accident.

Mr Foster said the road between Silverstone and Whittlebury was a well-used, potholed section of road.

He drove at a modest 25mph when he saw an oncoming vehicle. He was forced to stay on his side of the road and hit the pothole.

He said: “It was dark and the hole was full of water so it was difficult to see. But the tyre punctured instantly and I knew what had happened straight away.

“If I had been going any faster it would have broken my suspension.”

It was so dark on the unlit road, Mr Foster decided to wait until sunrise in order to change the tyre.

He also took pictures of the hole which he estimates was about one metre long, several centimetres deep and around 40cm wide.

He reported the pothole via the Northants County Council (NCC) Street Doctor system and started a £122 compensation claim for the replacement tyre. Engineers repaired the hole two days after Mr Foster reported it.

He told the Advertiser that, while he accepted the repairs to his company car did not affect him personally, he did not feel his company should pay for the damage, although he is not claiming for loss of a working day.

Last Friday he received a response from Gallagher Bassett, the law firm working on behalf of NCC.

They told Mr Foster that, as the road was inspected on July 19, 2012, their client had fulfilled its obligation to inspect the road in a systematic way and had therefore rejected his claim.

Mr Foster said: “It is a pretty thin defence of ‘We inspected the road seven months earlier’ in the height of summer, given it is a link between two main roads and is a busy country lane.”

A spokesman for NCC said in the financial year 2010/11 they received 4,361 calls about potholes, but filled 38,089. Of the 392 insurance claims against NCC, 340 were for potholes, but the number of claims had fallen by 143 per cent over the last decade.

The council also paid out £5,085 in insurance claims in 2012. The spokesman added: “Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 provides the county council with a statutory defence against claims where it can establish that reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the part of the highway to which the action relates was not dangerous to traffic.”