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As reported by the BBC News last night, drivers are increasingly being charged for inspection and repair of the motorway network after minor incidents.
BBC production manager Sheila Kaur-Patel had an incident where her car spun after hitting standing water on the M6. Having finished up facing the wrong way on the hard shoulder, Ms Kaur-Patel called the police to assist her.
The police stopped the traffic briefly to allow her to turn the car safely and resume her journey. The only damage to the car was a scrape to a bumper.
Three weeks later Ms Kaur-Patel received an invoice for nearly £3000 from a company she had never heard of, for damage she allegedly caused during the spin. The invoice included £1830.91 for closing the hard shoulder; hire of a 7.5 tonne tipper and driver; and repairs to the crash rails.
The fact that the charges are being not being by the Highways Agency but by their subcontractors has lead to complaints about lack of transparency, inflation of bills and no clear appeals process.
The Highways Agency responded saying: "We expect our service providers to have a clear, fair process in place and to act responsibly in dealing with claims.”
Speaking for the AA, Paul Watters questioned why charges were being levied when they weren't previously.
While it is reasonable for a motorist at fault to be held responsible for the damage caused, there is concern that it is increasingly being applied to all motorists. Previously this has been interpreted as having caused an accident through careless driving or a badly maintained car.
Drivers have also been charged for clearing up oil spillages after breakdowns. In most cases the charges have been in excess of £300. When challenged about the level of the charge or for evidence of the spill, the amount has been reduced or not pursued.
The situation is expected to worsen as cuts to maintenance contracts put more pressure on profit margins of subcontractors and they now seem to regard the private motorist as fair game.
With charges this high, it's likely that you would want to make a claim on your insurance, Unfortunately, most legal protection policies sold with car insurance do not cover costs of fighting excessive or unjustified third party claims, they are based around your recovery of uninsured losses from third parties. In any case, most insurers insist that you give them full control of the claim.
To get the best deal on your insurance, you can compare car insurance here.