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Zurich Municipal has warned councils of an increase in fake insurance claims for vehicle damages caused by potholes.

The public sector insurer says that fraudulent pothole claims tripled last year, and has advised authorities to keep a sharp lookout for claims against them which may not be legitimate.

In total, Zurich identified 571 fraudulent claims against councils, worth a costly £16.2m. The false claims stated that the issues with their vehicle came from hitting a road defect when, in actuality, the damages were already there, or were exaggerated. 

This figure also includes an 18% increase (on the previous year) in claims for injuries due to slipping or tripping where the trip never actually took place. These claims were worth 68% more than in the previous year.

The insurer attributed the rise in false claims in part to the cost of living increase, stating that the rapidly growing expenses faced by the nation are driving up opportunistic fraud.

It also noted that there was a rise in road defects last year due to the increase in extreme weather conditions, giving fraudsters more openings to blame potholes for the damages to their vehicles. This follows the recent news of the RAC announcing a 39% increase in pothole-related breakdowns.

Scott Clayton, head of claims fraud at Zurich, has warned that local authorities need to take the increase seriously: “While the cost of fraud against councils ultimately impacts the public purse, there are also significant social costs, including the funding of organised crime and costs to the judicial system.”

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