Shropshire Star

Almost 5,000 compensation claims in a year over vehicles damaged by road defects

Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler said the figures indicated a ‘worrying trend’.

Car wheel near a pothole mark

Almost 5,000 compensation claims have been submitted to a Stormont department in the last year over damage to vehicles caused by the poor state of roads, MLAs have been told.

Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd told the Assembly that he was speaking to department officials after complaints were raised over the standard of repairs to some potholes.

During ministerial questions, Mr O’Dowd was asked how many vehicle damage claims due to road defects have been made to his department in the last year.

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Stormont Infrastructure Minister John O’Dowd (Rebecca Black/PA)

He said: “During the financial year April 1 2023 to March 31 2024, my department received 4,878 roads-related vehicle damage claims.”

The minister said that although the Department for Infrastructure has a statutory duty to maintain roads, there is no automatic entitlement to compensation for claimants.

He said: “My department investigates and defends public liability claims with every case turning on its own facts.

“In cases where officials believe the department can raise a legal defence, claims will be defended.”

The minister said there had been an “upwards trend” in the total number of roads-related public liability claims received by his department since April 2019.

He said: “During the financial year of April 1 2022 to March 31 2023, 3,599 roads-related claims were received for property damage, personal injury and vehicle damage.

“Whereas in the financial year April 1 2023 to March 31 2024, 5,643 claims were received.”

The UUP’s Robbie Butler said the figures revealed by the minister indicated a worrying trend (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler said the figures indicated a “worrying trend”.

He suggested that the issues are not just around road deterioration but also the quality of repairs being carried out.

Mr Butler said: “My inbox as an MLA is receiving more and more worries in that regard.”

Mr O’Dowd said due to resource implications, not all repairs carried out on roads are inspected.

He said: “There are two phases to repairs.

“Once a pothole is reported to my department, particularly through the web link, that is allocated to the contractor.

“The private contractor then takes liability for that damage.

“They then go out and carry out almost an immediate repair, a quick fix.

“They then have to return and carry out a full repair to that pothole to ensure it meets the standards of my department.

“I am aware of concerns raised by members and members of the public around the state of some repairs and it is an issue I am discussing with my officials.”

2022 NI Assembly election
The DUP’s Deborah Erskine asked when private investigators were employed over public liability claims (Liam McBurney/PA)

DUP MLA Deborah Erskine asked when the department employs private investigators to deal with roads-related public liability claims.

Mr O’Dowd said: “It is in cases of personal injury claims and it is usually those where there is a higher claim involved.

“It is only done on the basis of legal advice.”

Concerns about the state of Northern Ireland’s roads infrastructure have been consistently raised in the Assembly since it returned earlier this year.

In February, Mr O’Dowd announced an additional £8.1 million was being made available to fix some of the worst roads in Northern Ireland.

He said the funding would help “to deliver additional resurfacing schemes and continue to address the poor condition of our road network”.

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