Driver angry after Bury St Edmunds pothole damage claim is rejected
A motorist left hundreds of pounds out of pocket after his car was damaged by a pothole wants to know how many other drivers met the same fate.
Ken Sibley was driving through Bury St Edmunds to his Woolpit home at about 6pm on February 20 when there was an ‘almighty thump’ as his car went over a large pothole in Horringer Road, approaching the Spread Eagle junction.
When dashboard warning lights came on he managed to get his Citroen as far as BP Haberden to call for recovery.
There, he met four other motorists awaiting assistance after driving over the same pothole, with problems including damage to drive shafts, tyres and suspension.
Ken’s car needed a new alloy wheel and tyre, costing £613, so he made an insurance claim.
This week, he learned Suffolk Highways had rejected the claim under section 58 of the Highways Act 1980. As a result, Ken has had to pay his policy’s £400 excess.
He said the ‘remarkable’ legislation seems to ‘absolve Suffolk Highways of responsibility to maintain the roads in a safe and fit state’ and describes section 58 as ‘the ultimate get-out clause’.
Now, he wants to know how many other cars were damaged by the pothole, which he said had been reported by dozens of motorists since February 17 while he was told by a Suffolk Highways emergency telephone operator police were in attendance on the evening of February 20 due to the number of incidents.
“There must have been carnage that night, with the pothole causing tremendous damage,” said Ken. “I am guessing there were a lot of cars damaged that night with a lot of money spent on repairs. I got away lightly.“There were five of us in the BP car park alone, that was people who’d made it that far. Probably others didn’t.”
A spokeswoman for Suffolk Highways said Suffolk County Council did not retain funds to settle claims if its duty to maintain the highway had happened correctly and in line with its Highway Maintenance Operational Plan.
After the pothole was reported inspectors ordered a repair within two working days.
“Suffolk Highways received a report of the pothole, after inspection a repair was ordered to take place within two working days. The damage unfortunately occurred during this time frame.
"Suffolk Highways followed its maintenance standards and duties to inspect and repair the defect,” said the spokeswoman, adding its records showed the council received eight claims relating to the pothole between February 19 and 20.