When strangers are forced to make polite conversation with each other – on buses, trains, whilst waiting in doctors’ surgeries – what do they generally talk about? Historically, it’s been about the state of the British weather. However, in recent years, they are just as likely to be heard bemoaning the state of the potholes that are plaguing the nation’s roads.

An article in March 2018 on the ‘Wales Online’ website, carried the startling headline;

“Filling all of Wales’ potholes will take Welsh councils 24 years”

According to the news report, in the year 2016/2017 it was estimated that the cost of bringing the road networks up to scratch by repairing all potholes and other road defects would cost Welsh councils £603.4 million. Even if adequate funding were available, which it isn’t, the number of man-hours that would be required to complete the task of repairing the road defects, would add up to a total of 24 years!

The reasons that are given for what appears to be a year on year deterioration in the condition of our roads are;

  1. The extreme weather conditions that we are experiencing on a more regular basis,
  2. The ever-tightening purse strings that councils and local authorities have to contend with.

Pothole compensation claims for vehicle damage on motorways and ‘A’ roads up 300% in 2018

Towards the end of 2018, it was widely reported that the Highways Agency, in answer to a Freedom of Information request had revealed that the cost of compensation paid out by the government agency to motorists suffering damage to their vehicles on motorways and major ‘A ‘roads, had been a sum of £329,000 in just 8 months of 2018, compared to a figure of £82,000 in the preceding 12 months. These types of road account for just 2% of all roads in the country.

The agency blamed the increase on the severe weather at the beginning of 2018. As we enter the winter months of 2019, it looks like road users can expect to brace themselves for another bout of damaged tyres, bent wheels and broken suspensions.

Rising numbers of cyclists are being seriously injured or killed as a result of accidents caused by potholes

 Whilst all of this is bad news for four-wheeled vehicles when it comes to cyclists, potholes carry a far more sinister threat. Whilst being jolted up and down as a result of a car hitting a deep pothole can sometimes cause the occupants of the vehicle to suffer whiplash injury, the threat for cyclists is that they could be involved in extremely serious, if not even fatal accidents.

On National Pothole Day last year (yes, there is such a day – 8th March), the cycling charity, Cycling UK used the anniversary to reveal some grim findings about cycling injuries caused by potholes and other road defects.

Between 2007 and 2016, 390 cyclists died or were seriously injured due to potholes.  In 2016, 64 cyclists were killed or seriously injured compared to 17 in 2007. This would seem to tie in with the worsening state of the roads, year on year.

These figures do not include the numbers of cyclists who received more moderate or minor injuries. Nor does it include those who suffered significant injuries but did not report them to the police. The overall figures of cyclists injured by potholes is likely to be significantly higher.

Some of the worst possible cycling accident personal injury claims are caused when cyclists unwittingly ride over potholes or other road defects. Since the pothole often takes them completely by surprise, cyclists are often travelling at speed when they encounter the hazard, causing them to be thrown from their bikes onto the road surface. Worse still, is that they may be thrown into the path of another road user. This is what happened to Martin Uzzell, an experienced cyclist, who was cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats on a charity bike ride when he hit a pothole and was thrown into the path of an oncoming car. Tragically, Martin died instantly.

Making a claim for a cycling accident personal injury compensation claim caused by a pothole

If you are injured as a result of a cycling accident caused by a pothole or other road defect, can you make a claim and who do you claim against?

The answer is that you may be able to make a claim. There is no hard and fast rule as to what depth a pothole has to be before the local authority or Highways Agency can be found liable for the cycling accident injuries you sustained. It is generally considered that the pothole should be a minimum depth of 40 mms before a claim can succeed. As to width, again there is no set minimum but 300mm is widely accepted to be the minimum. Sometimes claims can still succeed when the depth is less than 40mm. Much depends on the nature of the defect and particularly whether the road surface surrounding the pothole is also defective.

If the depth of defect seems sufficiently deep to warrant a claim being made, then the local authority might still be able to successfully resist any claim that is brought.

The local authority’s duty to inspect and repair potholes and other road defects

 Councils are under a duty to keep the roads free of known defects. When they become aware of a defect either as a result of a routine system of inspection or because a pothole is reported to them, then they should rectify the defect within a reasonable period. If they don’t, then the council may be liable for any losses or injury that a cyclist (or another road user) suffers as a result of that defect.

Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 is the legal authority that states if that a highway authority can prove it had taken “such care as in all the circumstances was reasonably required to secure that the part of the highway to which the action relates . . .” it may defend any claim against it.

This all sounds like a lot of ‘ifs and buts’, doesn’t it?

 It does, but claims do regularly succeed so it’s not necessarily as daunting a task to bring a successful pothole injury claim, as it might at first appear. Using the services of an expert cycling accident solicitor, such as Mooneerams in Cardiff, will greatly assist your chances of success.

Cycling UK carried out some further research over a 5-year period which provided some interesting results concerning compensation claims made by road users against local authorities as a result of accidents caused by potholes and road defects. Here are some of their findings;

  • 670 cyclists and 30893 drivers had their claims accepted
  • Motorists received on average £841.26 per successful claim
  • Cyclists received on average £10,963.15 per successful claim

The significantly higher average compensation payout for cyclists confirms that those claims almost always involve a claim for personal injury, whereas motorists claims by and large are restricted to ones for damage to their vehicles.

The chances of succeeding in making a personal injury claim where a pothole has been the cause of the accident, are likely to be much greater if you decide to ask an expert cycling accident solicitor to bring the claim on your behalf.

Here at Mooneerams solicitors in Cardiff, we are highly experienced personal injury compensation solicitors. We have dealt with many successful claims brought against local authorities on behalf of cyclists injured by potholes. Our success rate is high. If you have been injured in a cycling accident caused by a pothole or road defect and would like to talk to us about the possibility of making a claim for compensation against the local authority or highways agency, then call us on 029 2048 3615 or email [email protected] and we’ll get straight back to you.

You will not be charged for the initial advice that we give you and neither will there be any obligation to take the claim further if you decide not to. If you do want to go ahead after speaking to us – then we’ll be able to act for you on a No Win, No Fee basis, so you won’t have to worry about incurring legal fees if your claim isn’t successful.

Call us on 029 2048 3615. You will always speak with an experienced lawyer who you will find refreshingly straightforward, plain-speaking and down to earth.