Home
Claim for £102 from August 2015 finally paid out last month following court ruling

A cyclist has criticised Surrey County Council for their part in a lengthy battle for compensation after his bike was damaged when he hit a pothole in August 2015.

Get Surrey reports that Twitter user Barzi sustained minor injuries when he hit the pothole in Ockham Road North, Horsley. The impact also buckled his wheel and he put in a claim for £102 to cover the repair cost, but this was rejected.

"The county council said the defect wasn't there on the inspection a few weeks earlier, and at 30mm deep it was not a pothole in terms of legally accepted depths of 40mm or more."

Barzi submitted photos showing the pothole was around 55 to 60mm deep, yet his claim for compensation was still not accepted. The pothole was then repaired despite the council’s claims that it wasn’t deep enough to warrant the work.

The matter eventually went to court in June of this year. The council submitted only a written defence and the court found in the cyclist’s favour. With an increased repair fee and court costs, Surrey County Counil was told to pay £198 in compensation.

Barzi also submitted a complaint to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) regarding data allegedly withheld by the county council and is now awaiting judgement.

"The whole process has been stressful without a doubt, and I think the county council has made it harder than it should have been," he said. "I'm more aware of potholes now and report them – especially since the death of cyclist Ralph Brazier in Weybridge."

Brazier died in March last year after he was thrown from his bike when he hit a pothole on the A317. The coroner was critical of the local authority for taking a different approach to assessing risks posed by defects in cycle lanes to how it would treat faults on the main carriageway.

A county council spokesman said: "We take all claims very seriously and investigate them thoroughly and when it is clear that we are at fault we will pay reasonable compensation to the affected party.

"However, in this case we felt there was an arguable defence so we saw fit to let the court decide the outcome and provided them with all the relevant information."

He added: "In the last couple of years we have seen the amount of compensation we have paid out decreasing and this has been helped by our five-year Operation Horizon programme, which is rebuilding hundreds of miles of roads most in need of improvement.

"While we are pleased by this, we know there is still more to be done and are working very hard to address this."

Barzi is unimpressed with how his case was handled, however, and has invited cyclists who have been affected by potholes to get in touch via Get Surrey.

"I believe there are problems with the county council, in its recording of potholes and use of the section 58 defence. If anyone ever hits a pothole and their claim is turned down then they can let me know, and I can point them in the right direction."

Barzi now highlights Surrey road damage using Larry the rubber duck, who was provided to him by IKO PLC as part of their #NoMorePotholes campaign.

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the road.cc team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

10 comments

Avatar
LastBoyScout [236 posts] 4 weeks ago
1 like

I once put in a claim to Reading council when I hit a pothole resulting in a broken rear wheel.

It got rejected - because the pothole hadn't been previously reported, they couldn't be held responsible because they weren't aware of it, or something. Go figure!

Avatar
jthef [39 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

I've claimed twice and both times got paid for the repaire of the wheels. both wheels damaged on a main road in the lake district and a lane on the way to work  near Preston where I must report about 10 potholes a year using the fill that hole website (usally the same holes over and over again).

Avatar
John G [59 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

A related incident - after a lot of persistence I successfully claimed for a new car tyre when it was damaged beyond repair by a Cheshire East Council temporary traffic census rubber strip fixing-bolt. The council initially offered 50% of the cost of replaceing the tyre, citing "wear and tear". I pointed out the tyre was new, the receipt sent to them as evidence was for a set of 4 tyres purchased the previous month. The 50% offer was rejected, they then made an intermediate offer (also rejected) and the council finally coughed-up the full amount about 6 months later.

Get as much evidence as you can including photographs of the location, the defective road surface, receipts for the damaged / replacement item, stand your ground and be prepared to wait a while ...

It seems like a game of attrition, perhaps the hope of some of these organisations is the complaining member of the public will get fed-up and go away.

Avatar
Duncann [1046 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
LastBoyScout wrote:

I once put in a claim to Reading council when I hit a pothole resulting in a broken rear wheel.

It got rejected - because the pothole hadn't been previously reported, they couldn't be held responsible because they weren't aware of it, or something. Go figure!

The "not aware" is a viable legal defence, so long as they can demonstrate a reasonable inspection routine. The rationale is that the council can't know when every pothole opens up, and can't be reasonably held liable for things they can't reasonably be expected to know about.

They should inspect roads at regular intervals - but lots can happen between inspections, which is why it's important to report potholes. Then they can't say they didn't know.

It's also better to use a site like www.fillthathole.org.uk, which gives you a public record of your own and others' reports - as opposed to councils' own sites which often don't.

Avatar
BarryBianchi [178 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

This is Surrey. The behaviour of that council is nothing short of scandellous.  They will waste no end of public money in their disgusting attempts to be held accountable for their truly dreadful performance.  Have a look at the league table on fill that hole dot org.

Avatar
Samtheeagle [6 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

I do get that the roads are becoming worse - a Highways colleague recently told me that if all of the Local Authority budgets across the UK were applied to fixing potholes that exist today it would take 10 years to fix them all. The long and short is that we just dont pay enough tax to get everything we want. I also agree that where damage is caused through neglect we should claim - I broke my hip recently having hit a well recorded pothole. I received a hard fought payment but the pot hole is still there. However, I do think that authorities are right to try to get a good settlement for the organisation - the private sector would do nothing different and the payout from a local authority will be from public, tax payers' money.

Avatar
gthornton101 [146 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
LastBoyScout wrote:

I once put in a claim to Reading council when I hit a pothole resulting in a broken rear wheel.

It got rejected - because the pothole hadn't been previously reported, they couldn't be held responsible because they weren't aware of it, or something. Go figure!

 

I've had the same thing with Surrey County Council too, because it hadn't been previously reported they wouldn't consider my claim.  A few weeks later when I pointed out that it still hadn't been repaired they said that my claim wasn't "reporting the pothole" so it still hadn't been reported "through the correct channels".

They then went on to say that they would only consider claims of damage caused as a result of their own negligence or the negligence of its employees.  So unless one of their employees takes a drill to the road it seems they are not interested in general maintenance and upkeep of the roads!

Avatar
Martyn_K [215 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

One of the worst sections of pot hole riddled road in my immediate cycling area is slap bang outside a Highways Agency Road Surface Research Centre. Next door is the Highways Agency depot that serves North Hampshire.

Oh, the irony.

I figure that if they are unable to sort the surface directly outside their own facilities then there is little hope for general roads.

Avatar
Duncann [1046 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
Martyn_K wrote:

One of the worst sections of pot hole riddled road in my immediate cycling area is slap bang outside a Highways Agency Road Surface Research Centre. Next door is the Highways Agency depot that serves North Hampshire.

Oh, the irony.

I figure that if they are unable to sort the surface directly outside their own facilities then there is little hope for general roads.

If it's not a trunk road or motorway then it won't be their responsibility - they only look after 3% of the network. Still, you'd think they might make an exception...!

Avatar
Duncann [1046 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
gthornton101]</p>

<p>[quote=LastBoyScout

wrote:

I once put in a claim to Reading council when I hit a pothole resulting in a broken rear wheel.

It got rejected - because the pothole hadn't been previously reported, they couldn't be held responsible because they weren't aware of it, or something. Go figure!

[/quote

I've had the same thing with Surrey County Council too, because it hadn't been previously reported they wouldn't consider my claim.  A few weeks later when I pointed out that it still hadn't been repaired they said that my claim wasn't "reporting the pothole" so it still hadn't been reported "through the correct channels".

They then went on to say that they would only consider claims of damage caused as a result of their own negligence or the negligence of its employees.  So unless one of their employees takes a drill to the road it seems they are not interested in general maintenance and upkeep of the roads!

If it hadn't been reported and it had been in adequate condition when they last inspected that bit of road (might be worth asking for details of that) then they aren't liable. Refusing to consider it reported as a result of your claim sounds like bureaucratic bloody-mindedness and possibly wouldn't stand up in court should someone subsequently be seriously injured - but report it anyway.

If it had been properly reported to them and they hadn't responded appropriately then they definitely would be liable.