A couple has said they are “incandescent with rage” and “at war” with Essex Highways after they drove through a large pothole which caused £230 of damage to their car.
Dana and Gillian Whitehouse suffered significant damage to their Nissan Juke when they hit the large pothole, which reportedly is 15cm wide.
The couple, both aged 59, were visiting a wedding venue in Harlow, Essex, on November 30 last year when a sharp turn on a narrow section of road “forced” them to drive over a pothole. The result was a £231 bill to repair the car’s suspension arm which was ripped from its bearing.
The couple made a claim to Essex County Council for the damage to the car, stating the road should have been in a better state of repair. However, the council rejected the claim and denied liability, stating under the Highways Act 1980 that it was “unreasonable” for any member of public “to expect that all lengths of highway and footpaths can be maintained to such a standard that all users can expect to find them in a safe state of repair at all times”.
Speaking to Essex Live, Dana said the council’s response made them “incandescent with rage” and said the highways team were “unsympathetic and antagonistic”. Essex County Council has defended its position saying it is “rigorous” in maintaining and repairing the roads of Essex.
Dana said: “This is a very steep hill with a sharp left-hand turn at the foot. As mentioned, this is unlit and is also very narrow. At the very foot of the hill, the edge of the road surface had broken way. Due to the narrowness of the road, you are obliged to keep tight to the left of the carriageway.
“The nearside wheel of my wife’s car then got hooked into the broken area of the road resulting in the suspension arm being pulled out of its bearing. This resulted in a £231 bill for repair and the vehicle had to be towed by the RAC.
“In their response to Gillian, they openly admit that the damage to the road was missed on an Inspection during July 2022 and subsequently noted after our claim, by viewing video footage. But after sending an inspector out to view it they claim it is not dangerous. The area of damage is over a meter long and 150mm deep.
“However, I find it very unreasonable that where the council has failed to maintain roads and footpaths in a safe state of repair, they then renege on their duty of care to road users by not reimbursing them for damage caused to vehicles as a result.
“It is a legal requirement that I maintain my vehicle in a road-worthy condition. I therefore would expect that county councils maintain their roads in a condition worthy of my vehicle.”
An Essex County Council spokesman said: “All compensation claims are investigated fully and damages paid if the council has been liable. However, the majority of claims are successfully defended because we are very rigorous in our maintenance of the network.
“Following reports of any incidents or accidents, we re-inspect the defect. We have a duty to ensure that taxpayers’ money is used responsibly and therefore we are required to establish legally whether compensation should be paid in each case.
“Having followed rigorous procedures, including inspecting and logging the defect, allocating the correct priority and preparing plans to repair it to an appropriate timescale, then compensation is unlikely to be paid. We do everything we possibly can to repair all defects as soon as possible with the limited resources available.”
The council said people can report defects on the road to them using their “Tell Us” tool here.