Fraudulent claims warning over potholes

COUNCIL bosses have warned motorists that they will "vigorously defend" themselves against unwarranted or potentially fraudulent compensation claims for damage caused by potholes.

New figures reveal that Hartlepool Borough Council paid out almost 4,500 in compensation on 23 successful claims over a two year period.

Road chiefs say each claim is examined in detail and while potentially fraudulent claims are said to be few and far between, they will be strongly defended.

It comes after officers vowed to send inspectors to assess more than a dozen reports of potholed streets that have been put forward by Mail readers.

The reports were sent in as part of the Mail's updated Plot the Pots campaign which is urging readers to let us know where road repairs need to be carried out.

Hartlepool's roads have been described as being in an "atrocious" state after the latest winter freeze saw a huge rise in the number of potholes.

The new figures reveal that between January 2009 and December 31, last year, the council received 60 claims in relation to vehicle damage from potholes.

The number of claims in which compensation was paid out was 23, which meant the council successfully defended itself against 37 claims where there was not sufficient proof.

The total amount paid out in compensation was 4,459.37.

A council spokesman said: "Each claim is examined in detail on its particular circumstances and all claims are thoroughly investigated to confirm their authenticity.

"We rigorously defend ourselves in cases where we feel a claim is either unwarranted or potentially fraudulent."

Council road workers were working flat-out all last year to clear potholes caused by last winter's freezing temperatures when the latest cold blast saw the situation get even worse.

Around 20 people have logged on to our section in the last few days and outlined more than a dozen streets that need attention.

Potholes that are at least an inch and a half deep and a foot long are aimed to be repaired within 24 hours, while any other potholes are repaired within 28 days.

Potholes are caused when water gets into cracks in the surface of roads, before it freezes and expands, causing surfaces to crumble away when they are driven over.

Council bosses say the ideal situation would see entire roads resurfaced instead of just patching repairs.

But it would cost around 20m and the Government does not provide that much funding for road schemes.

The council will spend around 300,000 this year on repairs, which does not include the 1m that is spent in the town on resurfacing complete stretches of roads.

It has a patching squad that works solely on repairing potholes five-days-a-week and bosses say they are constantly working on repairing them.

People can report potholes to the council by calling (01429) 523333 or clicking this link.