£1m paid in compensation to drivers of cars damaged by road defects
MORE than £1 million has been paid in compensation to drivers whose cars have been damaged by road defects in the past five years.
There have been almost 7,500 claims lodged with Transport NI since 2011, with an average annual payout of £200,000.
Last month a detailed survey revealed that there are more than 100,000 potholes across Northern Ireland.
The Lisburn and Castlereagh area had the highest number of claims, with 955 over five years, while the largest amount of compensation paid out was in Newry, Mourne and Down, at £200,000 in the period since 2011.
Infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard released the figures in response to an assembly question from DUP Upper Bann MLA Carla Lockhart.
He said: "These figures include claims for damage incurred on the footway and carriageway due to defects and other issues.
"In addition, as the Department for Regional Development’s 2015/16 annual accounts have not yet been audited, the compensation figures include projected 2015/16 figures (which could be subject to change)."
A spokeswoman for the minister said last month that the budget allocated to carriageway patching for 2016/17 is £9.1 million.
She said: "There are many factors which contribute to the deterioration of road surfaces, many a result of ongoing weather conditions.
"The department's priority is to ensure the safety of all road users and Transport NI manages an ongoing programme of roads maintenance."
In February it emerged that two out of every three claims lodged against the former Department for Regional Development's (DRD) Road Service for compensation since 2012 had resulted in a pay-out.
The DRD said it had repaired almost 60,000 carriageway surface defects, including potholes, across the north in the space of a year and had spent just over £355,000 on road maintenance in between 2012 and 2015.
Former regional development minister Michelle McIlveen said last year: "My Department thoroughly investigates every claim for compensation that it receives to establish whether or not it has a defence to the allegations."
In 2013 The Irish News reported that almost £4 million in compensation claims had been paid out by the Roads Service to motorists and pedestrians in four years, including substantial payouts for tripping on kerbstones, tree roots and even grass.
One claimant received a £135,000 payout after being injured on a flagged pavement, while two others received £50,000 each after being injured on potholes.
It has also emerged that Transport NI has spent double the amount on road resurfacing in areas west of the Bann than elsewhere in the past two years.
In response to a question from DUP North Down MLA Alex Easton, the infrastructure minister revealed that just over £10m had been spent covering road upgrades in Belfast, Lisburn and Castlereagh, compared to £24m in the Omagh, Derry and Mid-Ulster council areas.
Almost £17m was spent in north Belfast and north Antrim, while there was a £23m outlay for Newry, Armagh and Ards.