‘I’ll never drive again’ says man in pothole dispute with Central Bedfordshire Council

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The claim took nine months to be decided – with insurance company blaming ‘higher number of claims than usual’

An elderly driver has vowed never to get behind the wheel of a car again after his car was damaged twice by potholes on a Shefford road.

And Michael May has slammed Central Bedfordshire Council for taking nine months to deny his claim of more than £600 after his car was badly damaged in May last year.

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The 81-year-old regularly travelled from his home in Hitchen for Sunday lunch with his son in Bedford, using the A600 between Deadmans Cross and Chicksands.

File photo of a van driving past a pothole used for illustrative purposes only.File photo of a van driving past a pothole used for illustrative purposes only.
File photo of a van driving past a pothole used for illustrative purposes only.

But on May 14 last year while travelling back home his car hit a pothole, damaging a spring which blew one of his tyres. He needed roadside assistance to move his car and has since decided he will give up driving.

"I'm completely traumatised,” he said. “It was terrible really, I was stranded in the middle of nowhere. I can't believe they have rejected the claim. I really thought there wouldn’t be a problem. There were two potholes and the council sealed them up afterwards. There were so many potholes in that area.”

It was the second time Mr May had damaged his car on that stretch of road but the first time he had put in a claim.

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The claim was passed on to Dolmans Insurance by Central Bedfordshire Council, which told Mr May an increase in claims had created a delay in dealing with the case. It said: “Unfortunately, your incident/claim follows a higher number of claims than usual following the 2022/23 winter period and snowfall, hence the current backlog with the Highways department providing us with their records for review in order to assess each and every claim”.

And rejecting the claim last month it said: “We are not disputing that you had an accident on the 14 May 2023 and sustained damage to your motor vehicle. The council are not legally obliged to ensure the highway network is free from alleged defects at all times. Their obligation is to have in place a reasonable system of inspection and repair. We believe this is the case here.

“Whilst we are very sorry that you had this unfortunate accident, we regret to advise that we do not consider the council to be liable to pay you compensation in this instance.”

Mr May said he was now considering taking his case to the small claims court. “I will not rest till I get the right result. It has put me off driving completely," he said. A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesman said: “The Council is responsible for maintaining a reasonable system of inspection and repair to support the upkeep of the highways network. The Council can only be found liable for damage to a vehicle if we have failed in this responsibility. We regularly inspect the roads for defects, but potholes will sometimes form, and this is why we encourage the public to report potholes they see to us as soon as possible.

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“We will not respond regarding individual claims but there are processes in place. This is a legal and insurance process.

“Last year's freezing conditions and heavy rain increased potholes nationwide, leading to more insurance claims to review which unfortunately led to longer resolution times.

“We have been doing more than ever before to proactively fix potholes, but our resources are limited, so we must prioritise fixing the most dangerous potholes. This year we repaired more than 4,500 potholes, that’s an increase of over 1,500 compared to the previous year. We also resurfaced nearly 65 miles of roads last summer, a 150% increase from the previous year.”