Contractors used by Highways England have been found submitting inflated claims for highway infrastructure damage caused during motor accidents.

A judge at Bristol Court has reduced a claim made to an insurance company, expressing concern that the costs presented to the insurer were significantly higher than those charged to Highways England itself. The court heard that Kier Highways’ (the Highways England contractor) response staff – known as Asset Incident Watchmen (AIWs) – were charged at over £70 per hour to the insurer, but only about £25 per hour to Highways England.

The ruling follows comments made by The Earl of Lytton in the House of Lords on 26 June, when he raised the issue of inflated claims made in relation to work for Highways England.

“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,” said The Earl of Lytton.

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

Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA), the specialist claims adjusting service provider, said that it had repeatedly voiced its concerns to Highways England about inflated costs.

CMA’s managing director, Philip Swift, said: “The judge’s comments fully support The Earl of Lytton’s statement. Too often invoices for repairs to motorway barriers, traffic signs and road surfaces are way over the top.”

He said that CMA’s own calculations have estimated that drivers, fleet operators and insurers have paid at least £10 million too much over the last three years in claims.

“We have gathered clear evidence of this excessive charging, repeatedly voicing our concerns to Highways England about not simply accepting the costs their contractors present,” added Swift.

“This ruling must surely prompt a change in approach. If not, there are potentially thousands of similar cases, which will end up in court. This would not only be a drain on the public purse, it would also be an additional expense for insurers which will ultimately push up premiums – a double whammy for the motoring taxpayer.”

Following The Earl of Lytton’s comments, Highways England said that it was taking the suggestion that its suppliers may have submitted inflated claims very seriously.