FIFE COUNCIL'S record on paying out on legitimate claims for damage caused to vehicles by potholes is "woeful".

And they've also been accused of being "in cahoots" with claims-handlers and trying to "fob off" motorists.

Consumer champion Scott Dixon submitted freedom of information requests to a number of Scottish councils, including Edinburgh, Midlothian, Falkirk and Scottish Borders, as well as Fife, to discover the scale of the issue.

He said: "Fife Council's record in comparison with other councils is woeful.

"Motorists had a one-in-four chance of winning a pothole claim with an average payout of £276 in the last financial year, which has now dropped to 10 per cent and an average payout of £200.

"This is completely unacceptable and reflects a trend with local authorities across Scotland."

Scott, who hosts the website, continued: "Councils are in cahoots with claims handlers and instructing them to mitigate legitimate claims by using similar tactics to fob off motorists.

"I know by personal experience that they are relying on a statutory defence that they cannot be held liable for potholes that they are not aware of, suggesting that motorists claim on their own insurance and that any claims honoured are subject to 'wear and tear' on damaged parts.

"This is clear from the figures given, and it has been widely reported that compensation to drivers for pothole damage is 40 per cent lower than five years ago with the average payout for pothole damage by local authorities being £276."

Fife Council said that in the financial year April 1, 2018, to March 31, 2019, they received 212 claims in relation to damage caused to vehicles by potholes; 160 were rejected and 52 were settled – a 25 per cent success rate.

The total amount was £14,359 and average payout was £276.

Between April 1, 2019, and December 17, 2019, there were 40 claims made, 36 were rejected and four were settled – a 10 per cent success rate.

The total amount paid was £802 with an average payout of just over £200.

Scott said: "Fife Council are by no means the worst in Scotland but, equally, there is much room for improvement here, especially on the quality of the pothole repairs and honouring legitimate claims made.

"If potholes were repaired to a satisfactory standard, there would be more money available to repair more potholes."

Clare Whyte, risk management team leader at Fife Council, said: “We follow a claims procedure to ensure consistency and fairness.

“Since the circumstances of individual claims differ, they are each assessed on their own merits.

"A specialist firm of legal liability claim-handlers deal with claims on behalf of the council and their liability assessment is based on information provided by the council and the claimant.

“Claims are only paid if the council has not met its legal duty to inspect and maintain roads.

“Claims can be reported a long time after the damage has occurred, so it is possible that the number of claims reported in 2019/20, may increase by March 31."

Fife Council spent just over £1 million repairing 24,734 potholes and other road defects in 2018. This rose to £1.5m and 24,778 in 2019.

Lead consultant Sara Wilson added: “It has been a fairly mild winter so far and although the numbers will go up, it may not be to the same extent as we might usually expect.

"A new risk-based approach to road repairs is set to be implemented from April onwards that will free up council resources so that many temporary fixes will be replaced by much more durable repairs.

"This will help improve the quality of Fife’s road network condition in the medium- to long-term.”

Scott concluded: "Road users deserve much better than this and I urge every road user to submit robust claims to hold the council to account.

"Refer to a pothole claim as an incident or a collision and not an accident, as accidents hold nobody liable.

"Take photos if possible and even look on Google Earth as some of the potholes can be seen from space.

"Gather your evidence and refuse to be fobbed off."