CRIME gangs are exploiting the country’s pothole crisis by making bogus injury claims.
Heavy rains and flooding, along with a £10.5billion repair bill shortfall, are allowing criminals to take advantage of the damning news that one in five of our roads is in “poor condition”.
Councils last year paid out £32million compensation to drivers whose vehicles were damaged by potholes, a 100 per cent rise in three years.
The RAC warns it has seen a 67 per cent year-on-year increase in the call-outs. Patrols are dealing with broken shock absorbers, ruined suspension and damaged wheels at a rate of one every 45 minutes.
A leading law firm last week revealed fraudsters were turning to “pothole trips” to make easy money as opportunities for whiplash claims diminished.
Keoghs Solicitors’ Ruth Needham, director of fraud rings, said: “In the past 12 months we have seen such an increase, especially in pothole claims, that we have asked ourselves, just where are these coming from?
“Our evidence seems to suggest that these claims are becoming much more organised.” Keoghs says that with many bogus claimants realising that alleging whiplash generates too many questions, they are opting for the “easier pickings” of loss of earnings.
The Local Government Association confirmed councils fixed 2.2 million potholes last year, more than 500,000 up on the previous 12 months. The average council has a £6.2million shortfall for highways maintenance.
“Compensation costs for pothole damage are spiralling as a result and have doubled in the past three years.” RAC technical director David Bizley said: “Potholes were far more prevalent throughout 2013 than they have been in previous years but the damage they cause is a very costly secret.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The Government is already providing councils with £3.4billion for road maintenance in the period 2011 to 2015.
“Last year we also announced £12billion for road maintenance for both the strategic and local road networks.
“This includes just under £6billion over the course of the next Parliament, enough to fill 19 million potholes per year, for English highway authorities.”