A DRIVER has been left nearly £1,000 out of pocket after his car hit a pothole – because council chiefs checked the road more than three months earlier.
South Tyneside Council says it isn’t liable for damage caused to Lee Smith’s car on August 16 as the road – Glen Street, in Hebburn – was last inspected on May 7 and “no issues” were found.
It says that inspection demonstrates the council operates a “reasonable inspection and maintenance” programme, which was a defence against damages claims under Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980.
Mr Smith has now been forced to pick up the repair bill for his BMW himself.
Mr Smith had been travelling along Glen Street when his car hit a hole in the road on August 16.
The wheel was left damaged and cracked, leaving him with a bill of almost £1,000 in repairs.
Mr Smith, from Kelvin Grove, Cleadon, complained to South Tyneside Council and an inspector was sent out to check the road three days later.
A pothole was discovered and filled in.
But it was another month before the hole, which Mr Smith says caused the damage was eventually filled in, after it was discovered the wrong hole had been dealt with.
Mr Smith was eventually informed by letter that the council was not liable for the damage caused to his car.
It said that, while the council appreciated the accident had caused him “substantial loss”, it could not be held responsible for the accident because the road had been inspected in May.
This gives the council a defence on the basis that it had taken reasonable measures to ensure that problems such as potholes are found and dealt with swiftly and it has a reasonable system in place to regularly inspect roads and repair them if necessary.
Mr Smith said: “Every time I phoned up to find out what was happening they just did not want to know.
“I was having to ring both South Tyneside Council and Sunderland Council as I was told they deal with the claims side of things. It was just never ending.
“This went on for three months, then they sent me a letter in December saying the council were not liable.”
He added: “When it happened I got out the car and saw a number of wheel trims at the side of the road.
“Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who had hit the pothole.
“The council had said because the road was last inspected on May 7 and no issues were raised they weren’t liable.
“The roads are a disgrace. If it was a cyclist who had hit the pothole he would have had no chance as he would have ended up in the path of a car.” A council spokesman said: “We cannot comment on the specifics of any particular case. However, we fully investigate every claim we receive, assessing each one on its individual merits and defending them wherever possible.
“The decision on whether or not to defend a claim is based on the expert advice we receive from our insurers, and the outcome of discussions with highways officers.
“We do all that we can to manage risks on our roads and footpaths and if we come across a pothole that is structural or hazardous, particularly on a busy road, we arrange a repair as soon as possible.
“We carry out safety inspections of the whole highways network in accordance with the national code of practice as well as respond to any reports we receive.”