Belfast Telegraph

Woman’s anger at delay after car damaged by tree-cutting

By Brett Campbell

A teacher left traumatised after her car was allegedly damaged by Government contractors clearing trees has vowed to sue if no one takes responsibility.

Maggie McCormick (44) was making her way to work in her Smart Forfour car on March 13 when the "terrifying" incident happened on the Upper Newtownards Road.

"I'm lucky I didn't die. It (tree debris) could have smashed through my windscreen and killed me," she said.

"As you can imagine, I nearly had a heart attack. It was lucky I didn't swerve into other cars."

She has been in a dispute with Cameron Landscapes Limited and its insurer for more than two months after the incident.

The company was contracted to clear trees along the roadside on behalf of the Department for Infrastructure as part of the Rapid Transit System project in east Belfast.

"The fact that this company will not accept responsibility has made this so much worse," Ms McCormick said.

The mum-of-one has been taking a range of medication and following the instructions of her GP in an effort to relieve stress.

"I have had to take unnecessary time off work and have been spending time I don't have dealing with police, solicitors and the insurance company," she added.

Ms McCormick, who lives in Ballyhackamore with her partner and teenage son, was "petrified" when the debris came hurtling at the window of her car on the morning of the incident.

"They were massive trees. One of them came crashing down and completely covered my car in dents and scratches. Initially I drove on, but I was so furious I had to go back.

"The workmen told me they had misjudged the cutting and their boss would sort my car out, but I haven't heard a thing."

She said that tree surgeons immediately paid for her damaged vehicle to be valeted at a nearby car wash, but she described her subsequent experience with the company as "ridiculous".

"It's been over two months and, despite my solicitor applying pressure on the company's insurers, my car is still not fixed," she added.

"At one point a member of staff had the audacity to tell me that the workmen had been shaken over what had happened.

"That totally undermined my trauma."

Cameron Landscapes said the matter was in the hands of insurer NFU Mutual and refused to comment further.

The teacher is also claiming for personal injuries of a psychological in nature.

"The failure of the company and its insurer to act has meant I have had to drive around in a damaged car, which is a continuous reminder of what happened to me that day," she said.

Refusing to comment, NFU Mutual said the matter was between "ourselves and her legal team".

Richard Clarke, head of personal injury at O'Neill Solicitors, said the insurance company had agreed to pay out for the vehicle damage "without prejudice", meaning its was not accepting liability.

The solicitor also said he was dealing with a second "carbon-copy" incident and that proceedings may soon be issued against the department and Cameron Landscapes.

The department said it was "aware of an alleged incident" and added it was in the hands of the contractor's insurers.

Insurance assessors have been in contact with Ms McCormick following queries from this newspaper.

Belfast Telegraph

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