'A drain cover did this to my vehicle - so why should I feel like a criminal for claiming compensation?'

A classic car restorer claims that he has been “made to feel like a criminal” for trying to claim compensation for damage caused to one of his trailers on a road in Wyre.

Thursday, 22nd August 2019, 11:51 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd August 2019, 12:51 am
"There was a huge bang," says the driver of a trailer whose tyres and wheels ended up looking like this after driving along a main road in Lancashire

Gary Winfield was transporting a vehicle along the A588 Lancaster Road in Cockerham when he heard “a huge bang”. Two of the tyres on his specialist twin-axle trailer had exploded after dropping down what he describes as a “sunken drainhole cover”.

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“At first, I thought that a milk tanker passing in the opposite direction had hit me, but when I discovered that they hadn’t, I went back to see what had actually happened,” Gary explains.

"There was a huge bang," says the driver of a trailer whose tyres and wheels ended up looking like this after driving along a main road in Lancashire

“I was looking for a piece of wood or metal in the road, but then I saw that there was a drain about three inches below the surface. It looked like it had been there for 50-odd years and the tar had been built up around it rather than levelled off.”

The classic car which Gary was taking to his workshop was undamaged, but just under £1,000 worth of repair work – tyres, wheel trims and break cables – was needed on his trailer.

However, Gary claims that correspondence from Lancashire County Council about how to recover the cost was designed as a “put-you-off” to deter people like him from claiming.

“When I phoned up, they were great and gave me all the details of what to do. But then a few days later, I received a letter which was headed with a big red box stating that it was up to me to prove in all reasonable circumstances that the council was at fault and that they could contest my claim.

The "sunken" drain cover for which Gary Winfield is now trying to claim compensation from Lancashire County Council

“The list of what you had to provide was unbelievable, but the worst thing was that I had to get detailed photographic evidence showing the depth of the drop.

“That means people are having to endanger themselves to take pictures in the road – what if this had happened to an elderly or disabled person, would they be expected to do that?

“It makes you feel like a criminal for using the roads which we, as taxpayers, are paying to be maintained,” Gary adds.

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council, which has yet to come to a decision on Gary’s claim, said: “We have a duty to taxpayers to properly investigate all legal claims before making a decision on whether to settle or challenge them.

The damaged trailer is a specialist piece of kit

“In the same way that would be required when making an insurance claim, the first thing we ask people to do is provide all available evidence to support their claim.

“The more information people provide the quicker and easier it is to assess their claim, however we wouldn’t expect anyone to risk their safety to take a photograph.”

Figures revealed last week show that the number of claims for damage caused by defects on Lancashire's roads doubled in the last twelve months, with total payouts coming to £176,000. But the number of safety issues which needed attending to - including potholes - dropped from just over 71,000 to just under 44,000 between 2016 and 2018.