17 April 2015
Widow Calls for Potholes Action after Compensation Payout over Cyclist Death
The wife of a cyclist killed after hitting a huge pothole has urged people to keep reporting road defects after she was awarded a six-figure out-of-court settlement.
Kate Uzzell is calling on people to report dangerous potholes to their local authority in the hope that other cyclists will not needlessly lose their lives.
Her husband Martyn Uzzell, from Somerset, was travelling along the A65 Settle Bypass at Giggleswick on a charity bike ride when he rode into a 10cm-deep hole around a roadside drain that had not been filled in and was thrown into the path of an oncoming vehicle in June 2011.
During an inquest last year, a coroner said the condition of the road was the cause of the accident and that the defect had existed for some time before the 51-year-old drove over it.
Mrs Uzzell, 48, who criticised the council for not taking action despite being told about the defect, has now settled her civil claim against the authority for a six-figure sum.
She said: “I am please it is settled but it is more about justice and acknowledging their failings.
“I just want them to stand up and say they made a mistake and that it won’t happen again, but they haven’t done that.”
Mr Uzzell, who was a service engineer, died while he was taking part in a bike ride with his brother-in-law and another cyclist, from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Mr Uzzell hit the pothole and lost control of his bicycle.
The inquest heard a North Yorkshire police officer called his own control room on May 11, a month before the accident, asking them to alert the county council to the fact that the area around the drain had not been filled in.
The police control room officer called the council’s customer service team to report the gap, but the authority’s phone operator did not pass this on to the highway inspection team.
Two highway inspections were carried out in the area between that call and the accident a month later. Michael Roberts, head of highway operations for the council, said an inspection carried out on May 13 ruled that the hole did not require immediate attention.
Ruling that the death was a result of a road traffic accident, coroner Robert Turnbull said there was “no doubt whatsoever that the condition of the road on that occasion was the cause of the accident”.
He said: “It is my opinion based on the balance of probability that this defect had existed for some time prior to the accident.”
Describing the council’s procedures for checking road defects as “fundamentally flawed”, Mrs Uzzell, 48, said: “I want the general public to report these defects and keep reporting them. Don’t think ‘I will leave it to someone else, they will do it’.
“That is the only way you can get anything done, by telling them there are these defects and that they have to sort them out.
“Where I live they are not proactive in keeping roads repaired. People report potholes and they don’t do anything. This is in general across the country.”
Richard Geraghty, lawyer at Slater and Gordon, representing Mrs Uzzell, said: “It is tragic that the failure to carry out a routine repair of a hazardous pothole has resulted in this needless loss of life.
“Cycling is more popular than ever and it is vitally important that roads are maintained so they are safe for cyclists to use. For a motorist a pothole might mean a damaged tyre, but for a cyclist it can mean a serious injury or, as here, a matter of life and death.
“We can only hope the authorities learn lessons from this tragedy.”
Richard Geraghty is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers.
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