The recent spell of Arctic weather conditions has taken its toll on roads in the UK. Recent media reports suggest that there is one hole every 110 metres of road in England and Wales.
For cyclists, potholes can present a lethal hazard. In wet conditions potholes are particularly difficult to see if they are covered by puddles. The cuts to public finance mean that many councils are fighting a losing battle to maintain the roads. If you suffer injury or property damage as a consequence of hitting a pothole you do not automatically have a claim against the council.
In order to establish liability it is necessary to establish 3 things.
- That your accident was caused by the pothole.
- That the pothole was a hazard to ordinary road users (there is no clear guidance on this. This is a matter of interpretation by a Trial Judge).
- That the council do not have a statutory defence. The council may have a statutory defence under the Highways Act 1980 if they can demonstrate that they had in place a reasonable system of inspection and maintenance. This means that if the council can produce documents demonstrating that they inspected the relevant section of the road at regular intervals and that the pothole appeared after their last inspection then a claim may not succeed.
If you are involved in an accident it is important that you obtain good photographic evidence of the defect. The photographs should clearly demonstrate the depth, width and length of the pothole. It is a good idea to place an everyday object inside the hole e.g. a coke can, and place across the hole a ruler. Photographs should also demonstrate where the hole is in relation to landmarks, e.g. street furniture, road signs etc. If possible you should obtain names and contact telephone numbers of any witnesses to the accident.
Paul Kitson is a partner in the London office of Slater and Gordon Lawyers, and also head of the Personal Injury department. Paul specialises in cycling accident claims. If you or a member of your family has suffered an accident or injury call our expert personal injury solicitors on 0800 916 9046, fill in our short online claim form or email email@example.com and one of our specialist personal injury team will review your compensation claim for free.