Potholes - a national scourge?

Large potholeLast Thursday (8th March) saw #NationalPotholeDay2018, unfortunately, coincide with International Women’s Day #pressforprogress. The latter clearly got international recognition and coverage but there was also some good media coverage for the former thanks to the hard work by Mr Pothole himself, Mark Morrell.

A long-term investment plan is needed.

Mark is quite rightly arguing that the UK roads need a proper long-term investment plan with levels of funding to match. This funding has to come from Central Government. With the squeeze on local authority budgets over recent years, repairs that have taken place have tended to be temporary rather than permanent. Ultimately, this is a false economy as the same holes will open up again months and, in some cases, weeks later. In truth, there has been a steady deterioration over a long period of time but the recent bad weather (Beast from the East) has just made things worse.

The cost is not just in property damage; human lives are at risk.

The impact of having large holes on our roads is that all road users are at risk. Car drivers can damage tyres and wheels and the impact can also affect tracking which can lead to additional wear on tyres. Most people don't bother claiming compensation from the Local Authority because it can be a long drawn out process and the initial position from their Claims Handlers tends to be that the Council cannot be held liable for the damage based on the information provided by the claimant.

More worrying and serious though is the potential significant injury to those on two wheels (motorcyclists and cyclists) who can be thrown off and injured due to a hazardous road surface. Often the defect is not clearly visible until it is too late. Between 2007 and 2016, 22 people cycling have died and 368 have been seriously injured due to the poor state and maintenance of Britain’s roads.

We are currently progressing claims for injury on behalf of many clients who have been victims of road surface defects. To succeed with these claims, evidence is required of the specific nature of the road defect and any investigations must identify fault on the part of the roads authority, contractor or some other responsible organisation.

 Success in claims involving hazardous road surfaces very much depends on various factors including the size of the pothole, its location, the nature of the defect and how long it has been in existence.

How do we prove fault?

In simple terms, we must prove two points;

  1. The local authority knew or ought to have known about the defect in advance of the accident.
That the defect was of a severity that warranted repair prior to the incident.

If you have sustained injury or damage as a result of a hazardous road surface, you should:

  • Inform the police as soon as possible and certainly within 14 days. 
  • If you have been injured, ask the police to attend the accident scene.
  • Inform the local council of the problem and keep a note of that record, including the name of the person you spoke to and/or reference number provided
  • Obtain details of any witnesses at the scene and ask them to confirm the presence and extent of the road surface defect.
  • Take photographs and measurements - if you're unable to do this, ask someone to take photographs for you.
  • Note down as much information as you can about the location and scene of the incident.

What can the public do to help?

So, if you come across a pothole which has the potential to unseat a cyclist or a motorcyclist, take a quick photo of it and upload it to one of the three websites mentioned below. (There are also mobile apps for these sites.)

That way, the Local Authority has been notified of the defect and, depending on its severity, has an obligation to do something about it within a given timescale.

A long-term investment plan is required but it needs to start now. Things are going to get worse before they get better but we really should be sorting out our existing roads before building new ones.

Unfortunately, however, even with investment, it is inevitable that the number of injuries over the next few years is only going to increase and we will be left to pick up the pieces working to try and get our clients and their bikes back on the road.

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