Fleet News

Highway England contractors are 'not averse to submitting inflated property claims'

Philip Swift, Claims Management & Adjusting

Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA) has welcomed comments by the Earl of Lytton in the House of Lords that Highways England’s contractors are apparently not averse to submitting inflated claims for infrastructure damage.

CMA estimates that drivers, fleet operators and insurers have paid at least £10 million too much over the past three years in overstated invoices.

Responsibility for repairing Crown property (motorway barriers, traffic signs, road surfaces etc) following a crash or vehicle fire usually rests with Highways England, but much of the work is contracted out.

Speaking in response to the Queen’s Speech on June 26, 2017, The Earl of Lytton said: “I suggest that there are many areas in which public administration and corporate social responsibility must improve.

"Sometimes it is not clear whether one is dealing with the objective public administrator, a commercial competitor or some sort of political adversary.

"That should not happen. I welcome the attention being given to the question of spurious personal injury claims in motor accidents, but Highways England’s own contractors are apparently not averse to submitting inflated “green claims”, as they are known, for highway infrastructure damage caused during motor accidents.

"These increase insurance costs, too, and appear to be out with the contractual arrangements with Highways England, and yet nothing seems to be done about them.”

Managing director of CMA, Philip Swift said: “We’ve been in dialogue with Highways England for some time regarding the unacceptably high proportion of invoices for damage to Crown property which are overstated.

"This is a serious matter as evidence in our possession indicates that many drivers, fleet operators and insurers have had claims and facts misrepresented to them.

"Highways England has so far failed to put a stop to this practice, seemingly content to simply accept what their contractors present.

"Hopefully recent managerial changes will prompt a change in approach. When only basic investigations so frequently result in these claims being halved or dismissed entirely, something is clearly very wrong.

"These incisive comments by the Earl of Lytton can only help to raise awareness of the issue.”

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  • Michael Dawson - 17/07/2017 16:45

    As a chartered quantity surveyor and loss adjuster of over 43 years standing I have dealt with a large number of claims for damage to bridges and other structures on roads and motorways involving not only Highways England (HE) but also various Local Authorities and Scottish equivalents. Contractors will always endeavour to charge as much as possible but HE and others act as little more than a clerical function simply forwarding what in many cases amounts to lever arch files full of computer print-outs, in the hope that the volume of paperwork will deter someone from looking closely at the build-up of those costs. HE and others certainly do not check the veracity of the amounts being charged or question why. It does take time, but a systematic approach can reveal huge gaps in the time-line when nothing appears to have happened on site. In my experience, this can be where a lot of the costs are generated in maintaining protection measures and the like. The schedules of rates operated by the contractors are, in my opinion, heavily weighted towards these time-related charges to the extent that it pays them to delay completing repairs as there is certainly no incentive for them to complete quickly. I believe there are 3 main issues which need to be addressed: a) contacting Third Party Insurers promptly before carrying on with permanent repairs to enable agreement to be reached on the extent of repairs necessary before incurring the costs. b) HE and others need to check the accounts rendered more thoroughly and to do so with a trained eye for overstatement and inconsistencies. c) Move away from the belief that another party (insurance) will pay, so it doesn’t matter how much it costs, which completely ignores the principle that the party suffering damage has an obligation to mitigate their losses.

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