Pothole Damages - Who Should Pay the Price?

During the winter months, with increased rainfall, cold temperatures, ice and road treatments of salt, our roads take quite a battering, resulting in potholes appearing at regular intervals. Every year pedestrians, cyclists, motorbike riders and motorists incur injury or loss as a result of our deteriorating road network.

With the 4th National Pothole Day yet to be announced, the Personal lnjury Team at Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers would like to provide some practical advice to keep you safe on the roads and footpaths.

The motoring organisation, RAC, advised that 31,483 compensation claims for vehicle damage were submitted against local councils in 2016, with the AA reporting that 39% of its members' vehicles have suffered from pothole damage.

There is a greater risk to cyclists and motorbike riders who are more vulnerable, the results from an accident caused by a pothole can be catastrophic. Likewise, injuries to pedestrians can result in a simple laceration or bruising to more serious injuries of fractures or head injury.

A recent report suggested that if all the UK's potholes were added together, the result would be a 25 mile crater, deeper than the Pacific Ocean.

The UK local authorities are legally obliged to maintain roads and pavements to a safe standard at the public expense. In order to do this, inspections of the highways and footways are carried out at intervals dependent on the location. Each area has different criteria - if the local authority can prove that the defect was not present on its last inspection, they will not owe a liability. This is where you need to seek the advice of a specialist lawyer who can act in your interests in the most effective way.

We all take great care when using our roads, however, if the unexpected happens, what should you do?

Firstly, if you have suffered injury you need to call for help. If you are able, move to a safe position, especially if you are a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist. If not, try and alert other road users that there is a danger and you require help.

If it is only your bike or vehicle that is damaged, ensure that it is safe to drive and move to a safe place before gathering evidence from the scene to prove any future claim.

The following is not an exhaustive list, although if you believe injury, loss or damage has been caused by a pothole in the road or pavement, you should:-

  • take photographs of the pothole and use whatever is to hand, to demonstrate the size of the defect (always ensuring the safety of you and other road users);
  • if there were any witnesses, obtain their details (name and mobile number etc);
  • check for any CCTV in the area and be sure to report the incident and request any footage be retained (some local authorities, shops and other CCTV users delete recordings after two weeks);
  • if your car or bike has been damaged, get it checked out and obtain quotes for any necessary repairs;
  • keep any receipts for alternative travel arrangements or any expenses you may have as a result of an accident, such as damaged clothing, medications or loss of earnings;
  • if you have suffered injury, ensure you receive treatment;
  • contact our specialist personal injury team asap by calling 0161 785 3500 or email enquiries@pearsonlegal.co.uk.
Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.