Highways England – Motorway and Major A Road Process for ‘Green Claims’

 

Highways England, the government company responsible for maintaining the nation’s motorway and major A road infrastructure, has just announced changes to their process for dealing with claims against motorists and their insurers, in regard to claims for damage to Crown property following a vehicle accident, known as ‘Green Claims’. 

This involves the introduction of a National Schedule of Repair Costs (NSoRC), said to harmonise repair rates across their various regions.  The new charges took effect in June 19 for some regions and will be rolled out across the coming months to all other areas, with the exception of Area 5, where existing arrangements will be maintained.

Our specialist Third Party Property Damage engineering unit has considered the impact of the changes on the insurance industry.

Up-to now, should an incident occur involving a vehicle, a designated highways contractor would attend the incident location, complete the necessary repairs and present their invoice to either the insurer if below £10,000 or, if higher, to Highways England for recovery. The thorn in the industry’s side has been that repair costs can vary significantly, dependant on the location, damage and entity making the recovery.  

Under the new arrangement, which applies to claims below £50,000.00 for barrier/surface damage and £20,000 for signage, lighting and fencing, the charges will be fixed according to the NSoRC and recovered by Highways England directly.  Total claim costs will be derived from the number of nine or 12 hour shifts required to effect a repair, depending upon the nature of the work, plus materials. Those requiring to be completed within a short timeframe – or ‘Reactive Repairs – will attract higher rates than those that can be programmed into planned maintenance.

There have been many challenges raised over the years by insurers and loss adjusters in relation to the charges applied to such repairs. The market has long expressed its concern with regard to the lack of transparency around the calculation of ‘Green Claims’.

Nor should we forget that the rates applied form only one aspect of validation as often there has been historic damage which will be repaired at the same time and/or betterment arising from the repairs.

For example, the TPPD team at QuestGates were appointed to manage a claim involving impact damage to a road bridge over the M6. Originally intimated in the region of £825,000, our investigation established there was extensive pre-existing damage dating back at least four years. Following our challenge the contractor conceded that the costs billed to the insurer were not a true reflection of the extent of the insured’s liability and we were able to adjust the scope of repair and the insurer’s contribution down to nearer £500,000 delivering savings in excess of £300,000.

While, any effort to bring greater clarity and consistency to the process is, on the face of it, a welcome change, the insurance industry should view these changes with a degree of caution. The announcement of these changes by Highways England comes with a clear message that the new rates are not up for negotiation, which points to a hardening of approach. There is potential for increased litigation, and so increased claim costs, in the event the scope of repairs cannot be agreed.

Until we start to see the process in practice, it is difficult to summarise what the overall impact of the NSoRC will be on insurers and it remains to be seen if the average cost per claim is reduced.  What we can expect to see is it taking longer for claims to be presented post accident and there will be no less need for careful scrutiny of the claims presented in order to validate the scope of the repair undertaken, the time spent and the type and quantity of materials used.  

On the whole, however, we are cautiously optimistic about the changes which we see as a positive move by Highways England toward greater transparency and consistency in this complex claims area.

Our specialist TPPD team will continue to work closely with all parties, with a view to protecting the interest of our clients and their policyholders, whilst encouraging a collaborative working relationship with Highways England, aimed at reducing the areas of dispute and bringing claims to a timely and cost effective conclusion.

For further information about the services offered by QuestGates specialist TPPD team, contact Dan Welsford, Operations Manager at:

QuestGates Ltd

TPPD Division

Seymour House

Newport Pagnell Road West

Northampton

NN4 7JJ