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An athlete has sued Staffordshire County Council over a cycling accident caused by a pothole – despite the government having tightened restrictions around payouts.

Paul Higgins, a 57-year-old triathlete, was thrown from his bike when he hit a pothole in Stourbridge back in 2022. This cost him a broken collarbone, ribs and pelvis, as well as a damaged lung. His spinal cord was also fractured, as a result of the frightening accident.

Although Higgins conceded that councils don’t have a bottomless pit for making road repairs, he added that they could do a lot more. He said: “I know people who have died because of pothole crashes, and I think people need to be made aware of it and I think that’s a good thing.”

Meanwhile, David Williams, a cabinet member for highways and transport at Staffordshire County Council, said he was sorry to hear about the accident. He further stated that they prioritise any reported potholes that pose an immediate risk.

This follows the news that councils nationwide have been tightening payout criteria for pothole incidents. The Liberal Democrats obtained the information via a freedom of information request, finding that compensation for damages caused by potholes has fallen by more than half.

Compensation paid out by 85 councils fell from £3.7m to £1.7m between 2019-20 and 2022-23 and even dropped below £1.7m in 2021-22. AA president, Edmund King, said that some councils have been paying out next to nothing.

A Local Government Association spokesperson said: “Each claim for compensation sent to a council is robustly judged on its own merits and in accordance with the law.

“Instead of paying for costly compensation claims, councils much prefer to use their budgets to keep our roads in a good condition, in turn reducing the risk of damage to vehicles and personal injuries.

“However, this has become increasingly challenging, with an estimated and growing £14bn backlog of repairs to bring all local roads across the country up to scratch.”

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