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Could pothole payouts make the councils fix our roads?

Eleanor Newis
Jan 24, 2019

Lawyer wins £130 in case that could help other drivers.

A lawyer has won a case with the council over pothole damage, in case that has the potential to help thousands of other motorists.

Clive Thorp, 68, argued that recent case law in fact means that councils have to make temporary repairs within 24 hours of becoming aware of damage to roads.

He used a Court of Appeal judgement that was made in 2017, and which covered the case of a jogger who sued Barnsley council in Yorkshire after they denied responsibility for ankle damage caused by a pothole.

Judges said that ‘defects which represent an immediate or imminent hazard’ should be ‘corrected or made safe’, after the council had examined the damage.

They also said: ‘Repairs of a permanent or temporary nature should be carried out as soon as possible, and in any case within a period of 24 hours. Permanent repairs should be carried out within 28 days.’

My Thorp, from Selsey in West Sussex, brought a small claims case against his council. They refused to offer him compensation after his car was damaged for the third time in two years by the same stretch of road that was damaged with potholes.

Yesterday, the council agreed to a settlement of £130 under a fortnight before the case was timetabled to come to court.

The figure is intended to cover car damage, court costs, and Mr Thorp’s fees. The potential is for this case to set a precedent for lots of other motorists who get their cars damaged by potholes.

Mr Thorp said: ‘The amount of effort the council put me through to be compensated was terrible but I believe it shows my interpretation of the law is correct.

‘Other motorists should use it and make a claim. It isn’t expensive and if everyone did it, it might force councils to make more of an effort to make the roads safe.’

Despite Mr Thorp hitting the pothole while driving on 6th September, the council workers did not patch it up, and instead painted markings around it ahead of a planned permanent repair.

Mr Thorp said of the case: ‘People often give up when they are knocked back by their local council and everyone seems frightened of going to the law - but it only cost me £25.’

Roger Lawson, from the Association of British Drivers, said West Sussex Council should have fixed the pothole as soon as possible. They said: ‘If it’s left for weeks, that’s not good enough.’ 

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