Shire denies liability for windscreen damage

A CHATSWORTH family is disappointed to be out of pocket almost $300 after a Southern Grampians Shire truck broke their car’s windshield and refused to help with the repair bill. 

The council told The Standard it was not legally obligated to pay up. However, the Roberts family feels the shire is ethically obliged to help its residents.

Natasha Roberts was driving towards Penshurst on Hamilton-Chatsworth Road on March 6 about 2.45pm when, faced with an oncoming truck, she veered to the side of the one-lane road, expecting the truck to do the same.

“I came across a Southern Grampians Shire truck carting gravel to the roadworks. It never slowed down and forced me off the road so I had all four wheels in the gravel,” she told The Standard. 

As the two vehicles passed, Mrs Roberts said a fist-sized rock flew up and cracked her windshield from top to bottom, leaving the family car unroadworthy.

“I’d forget about it if it were a minor rock chip, but it was from the passenger side through to the driver side, and top to bottom.

“I couldn’t drive with that with my two kids in the car.

“I understand these things happen every day but how often is it this much damage from one rock?”

A shire council spokesman said all vehicles held the same liability under the relevant Road Management Act, meaning the council was not liable and Mrs Roberts would need to make a claim through her private vehicle insurance.

“Under s110 of the Road Management Act 2004, road authorities, including councils, are not liable for property damage under $1290, including a windscreen cracked by a loose stone,” he said. 

“This law applies to councils all around Victoria, not just Southern Grampians Shire Council.”

Mrs Roberts’ husband Ray said it was a matter of principle more than simply following the letter of the law.

“If you go into a shop and break something, you have to pay for it,” he said. “I don’t care about the legislation or whatever means they don’t have to pay for it. They put our car out of action for four or five days. Accidents happen but ... if it had killed her, who would be responsible?”

Despite asking the council to reimburse at least part of the $291 windshield replacement cost, Mrs Roberts has been unable to get the council to admit fault.

“We’re trying to have them refund even a little of it, but they’ve declined to look into it because its under $1200.”

She said there was a precedent set by the council.

“I spoke with a woman who said a similar thing happened in Dunkeld where a shire lawnmower flicked up a rock that smashed her back windscreen and they only took three days to pay $400 for it.”

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