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Potholes: NI road defects cost over £25m in compensation

By 12th April 2024May 16th, 2024News
Steven Gilliland BBC Pothole

Potholes and road defects cost the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) over £25m in a five year period in settled public liability claims.

The department’s Road Claims Unit is responsible for processing and recording personal injury or property damage claims due to roads.

A total of 10,982 successful claims were made between April 2018 and the end of March 2023.

DfI said budgetary pressures have led to reduced routine road maintenance.

The vast majority of claims (9,799) were made for vehicle damage.

Compensation was paid out in 1,044 personal injury claims, with property damage making up the final 139 successful claims.

Number of potholes doubles

In total, the claims in this period cost the Department for Infrastructure £25,322,556.22.

This includes compensation as well as various legal costs and medical fees.

Newry, Mourne and Down was the council area with the highest number of claims resulting in compensation with 1,818.

The next highest were Lisburn and Castlereagh with 1,347 and Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon with 1,273.

It comes after the number of reports of potholes on Northern Ireland’s roads doubled in 2023.


Solicitor Steven Gilliland says he has noticed an upward trend in the number of claims being submitted.
Figures reported by the BBC in 2020, showed £1.7m in compensation was paid for vehicles damaged by potholes between 2016 and 2019.

“In 2023 we had double the cases we had in 2022 and already this year we’ve had more cases than in the whole of 2022,” said Mr Gilliland.

“The responsibility for the maintenance of public roads does fall under the Department for Infrastructure. Part of their duty is to inspect the roads.

“A motorway would need to be inspected daily while a rural country road once every six months.”


‘Looks like a normal puddle’

Speaking to the Good Morning Ulster programme on Thursday, Debi Knowles spoke of her experience after hitting a large pothole at a roundabout in Coleraine.

She said it caused extensive damage to her car, resulting in over £250 in repair fees.
“It’s quite a big bill, I’m out quite a bit of money and this damage has come solely from hitting this pothole,” she said.

Also speaking to the programme was cyclist Josh Murray, who has been battling with potholes around Lisburn.
“It can be so dangerous and very daunting on a bike, especially on a main road when you need to swerve into traffic to avoid potholes.

“What is a major issue at the minute is potholes which are filled with water.

“You’re cycling along and see what looks like a normal puddle, my friend came off her bike after hitting a pothole like this, broke her collarbone and significantly damaged an expensive racing bike,” he said

Northern Ireland road blogger Wesley Johnston says the figures represent the standard of the roads.
“We’ve been underinvesting in the road network for 20 years and as a result of that we have a lot of potholes.  We’re basically seeing the consequences of that,” said Mr Johnston.

“It’s cheaper to pay people for damage to their vehicles than it is to comprehensively fix all the potholes.”

The Department for Infrastructure said budgetary pressures have led to routine road maintenance activities being reduced to a limited service.
“Consequently, only the highest priority defects across the network are currently being repaired,” a department spokesperson said.

“The level of repairs that can be carried out in future financial years will depend on the 2024-25 final budget. Until such times as sufficient funding is made available, it will not be possible to change the current level of service.”


By Richard O’Reilly

If you have suffered a personal injury call JMK Solicitors on 028 9032 0222 to arrange a free consultation, or fill in our free enquiry form online; we’ll give you our honest and expert opinion on what we think your claim is worth.

 Every client’s case and set of circumstances are unique and at JMK Solicitors, our personal service ensures we achieve the best outcome for you.

JMK Solicitors are Northern Ireland’s Number 1 Personal Injury Specialists. With a team of over 100 people including a specialist team of personal injury solicitors, we assist clients all over Northern Ireland. If you have suffered a personal injury, been in a road traffic accident, or had an accident at work contact our team for a free consultation.

Call us today on 028 9032 0222 or email us law@jmksolicitors.com

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