In 2016, we spoke with a claims manager at a Highways England contractor responsible for attending emergency incidents and repairing the resultant damage.  We were warned:

  • Area [redacted] had been taught if they can quite clearly see accident damage on this side of the road and defects on the other side of the road but you’ve got no culprit, roll that into one (charge the identified culprit for the previous damage too).
  • we had a lot of crossover claims where [redacted contractor] had billed insurers for damage they’ve not repaired and we were ending up having to repair it (having taken over the Area contract)

6 years on and a £15,000+ claim for repair to the motorway barrier appeared ‘odd.

The nearside damage and central reservation damage were presented with costs for materials, labour & plant for the traffic management and reinstatement.  Both areas of damage can be seen in the above image, albeit the cones in the central reservation are less clear.  But it is unusual for a vehicle to cause damage to near and offside barriers directly opposite each other.  A vehicle would need to be travelling across the carriageway at right-angles to the barrier (this was a single vehicle incident).  We explained our driver struck the nearside only, the central reservation was unrelated damage and questioned the validation process.

The Authority’s handler advised the claim is presented by the contractor to the Authority’s quantity surveyor team who check the rates and then send word to the ‘front end team’ that the costs are correct and the claim should be issued / sent to Insurers. The claims team has no access to the rates.  It appears three sets of eyes had reviewed the claim before payment was demanded of the insurer.  Having presented the concerns to Highways England, it took a year for the Authority to correctly (almost) price the claim:

Staff £606.75
Labour £1,611.00
Plant £737.30
Material £1,275.47
Sub-Contractor £0.00
Sub Total £4,230.52
Fee @ 9.06% £383.29
FINAL ACCOUNT TOTAL £4,613.81

£10,000+ of overstatement, payment to the contractor under this claim.  Why? Our suspicion:

  1. When the central reservation damage occurred, a contractor was unable to claim the repair cost from the Authority because it was below the £10,000 threshold and they had no identifiable culprit – so the damage should have been repaired under the monthly lump-sum payment award i.e. the contractor should have met the cost
  2. As the contract was coming to an end – do not repair
  3. A new contractor took on the contract and inherited the damage to repair.
  4. The incident involving our driver provided the opportunity to ‘roll that into one’ .
  5. The new contractor was paid in full for the earlier incident repair which should have been undertaken by the previous contractor and for which the driver/insurer was NOT liable
  6. The Authority demand payment for both repairs from an insurer

There are several questions outstanding, for example:

  1. Has the new contractor acted alone in presenting two claims as one?
  2. Would the new contractor have been paid irrespective given they inherited the damage?  If so,
  3. Why act in this manner and cause the Authority to seek excessive payment?
  4. Did the Authority identify the overstatement before the demand was made and if not, why not?   i.e. not suffered any loss?

Who is this ‘new’ contractor that ‘rolled into one’? … the very one we were alerted to by the claims manager in 2016!

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