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Pothole Danger for Cyclists Can Be Fatal

By Principal Lawyer, Personal Injury

The real danger of potholes is the risk to cyclists. The tragic death of 51 year old Martyn Uzzell from Somerset is a reminder that unrepaired potholes can kill cyclists.

Mr Uzzell was killed in June 2011 when riding along the A65 road in Giggleswick, North Yorkshire when his bike hit (according to press reports) a 4 inch deep pothole causing him to be thrown into the path of VW Golf. This tragedy occurred when Mr Uzzell was taking part in the Land`s End to John O`Groats ride to raise money for cancer and a children`s charity.

At the inquest into Mr Uzzell`s death the Coroner, Rob Turnbull, was told that the relevant section of the road was inspected 5 weeks prior to the accident. Following a report by the police warning the council of the pothole, there was a further inspection by the council but it was decided that it did not present a hazard to road users so it was not repaired. Incredibly the pothole remained unrepaired after a third inspection shortly before Mr Uzzell`s tragic accident.

The Coroner was in no doubt that the pothole was causative of Mr Uzzell`s death and commented that it had been in existence for time prior to the accident.

Mr Uzzell`s widow is now pursuing a civil claim against the council who have a legal obligation to maintain the highway pursuant to section 41 of the Highway Act 1980. As there is on-going litigation it is not appropriate to comment on the merits of her claim.

In general terms a claimant suing the council in relation to injury of loss as a result of a pothole must prove;

(a) that the pothole was the cause of the accident and

(b) that it was of sufficient size to be hazardous to road users. The highway authority, i.e. the council, can raise a statutory defence on the basis that they had taken reasonable care to maintain the highway.

It is important that dangerous potholes are reported to the relevant highway and one way of doing this is through the CTC fillthathole website.

Mr Uzzell`s death could have been prevented if the pothole had been repaired. The repair cost would only have been £60.

Paul Kitson is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers and heads the Cycle Injury Team.

Slater and Gordon have offices nationwide and offer a free consultation to people injured in accidents through no fault of their own. Call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we will call you.