A Highway Authority has a duty to maintain the highway under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980. This imposes an absolute duty to maintain the highway but section 58 provides a statutory defence if the Highway Authority can prove that it took such care as was reasonably required to secure that the highway was not dangerous.
In the case of Goodes v. East Sussex County Council, which was decided in 2000, the House of Lords held that there was no duty to remove snow and ice which had accumulated on the highway. This ruling by the House of Lords was heavily criticised.
In October 2003 the Goodes case was reversed by an amendment to the Highways Act which imposed a duty to ensure that so far as reasonably practicable, safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow and ice. This case however only applies to snow and ice.
In practice, claims against Highway Authorities for failure to clear snow and ice from the highway are difficult to pursue. The Highway Authorities will have to prioritise their efforts to clear snow and ice from busier roads. Routes taken by cyclists tend not to be a priority.
Paul Kitson is a Principal Lawyer 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 or contact us online and one of our specialist personal injury team will review your compensation claim for free.