If you suffer an accident because of a pothole, you could be entitled to make a claim against the local authority or landowner. This would provide compensation for your physical and financial damages.
The success of a pothole claim often relies on key evidence that must be quickly obtained, before it is removed. It is therefore vital to seek expert legal advice at the earliest available opportunity. We specialise in personal injury claims and can get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us now for a free initial enquiry.
Potholes are a common problem in the UK, particularly during the winter months. What happens is that water gets into the little holes in roads and pavements. The water freezes, causing it to expand. The road or pavement then cracks, eventually causing it to collapse.
Potholes pose a serious risk to pedestrians and cyclists. Even those travelling in vehicles can suffer harm as a result of a pothole. Just imagine someone walking down the street who fails to see a pothole. He will suddenly lose his footing, causing him to fall and potentially suffer a sprained ankle, fractured bone and even a head injury. Or, take a cyclist who is pedalling down a road or designated cycle path. If their wheel falls into a pothole, they will suddenly be ejected from their bike, possibly resulting in very serious injuries. A vehicle that travels over a pothole may also experience a temporary loss of control, careening off course and into the path of oncoming traffic or another obstacle.
Who is responsible for repairing potholes?
Potholes are not just a nuisance; they are a very real health hazard. That is why Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 stipulates that all road owners must ensure that roads and pavements are passable, so as to protect the health and safety of those that use them.
Most highways in England and Wales are owned and operated by local authorities. This means a local council must have a system in place to identify potholes. Once a pothole is discovered, it should be quickly repaired. If this is not possible, adequate warning signs should be put in place to warn others of the danger.
The rules are slightly different is the pothole is on private land. The responsibility falls to the landowner, rather than the local authority. The landowner has a duty to ensure the health and safety of visitors and to identify and repair potholes to prevent an accident occurring.
Can I claim for a pothole accident?
If you suffer an accident because of a pothole, you could be entitled to make a personal injury compensation claim. It all depends on whether the local authority or landowner has failed to meet their duty of care towards you. This can be difficult to ascertain on your own. The legal concept of liability is a complicated one, especially when it comes to potholes. If a local authority can demonstrate that they took adequate care, then you may not have grounds for a claim.
To find out for certain, it is best to speak to our injury claim lawyers. We offer a free initial enquiry, giving you the chance to find out if you can claim for a pothole accident. Some of the most common causes of a pothole accident claim include:
- Pedestrians who have fallen over because of a pothole in a road, pavement, car park or another public place
- Cyclists who have fallen off their bike while cycling along a road, pavement or designated cycle path
- Drivers and vehicle passengers who suffer a road traffic accident because of a pothole
- Pothole accidents on private land
What to do after a pothole accident
To help your claim, there are certain things that you can do immediately after a pothole accident.
Perhaps the most important thing is to collect evidence in support of your claim. Otherwise, the local authority or landowner will refute the allegations, saying that the pothole does not exist, was not especially deep, or simply did not cause an accident.
To give your claim the best chance of success, we recommend that you gather as much evidence as possible. If you have not already done so, return to the pothole to take photographs. Try to go at the same time of day that your accident happened. Place a recognisable object next to the pothole to provide a sense of perspective. This could be a ruler or a coin – something which shows how deep/wide the pothole really is.
Also, look around to see if there are any CCTV cameras nearby. These may have recorded your accident. If so, ask the shop or office if you can access the footage. You are legally entitled to do so. The only potential problem is that most CCTV footage is wiped after 28 days, so you need to act fast, or you may lose this crucial piece of evidence. If you contact us quickly enough, we can do this on your behalf.
Speak to witnesses
Did anyone see your pothole accident? If so, ask for their names and contact details. They can corroborate your version events. If you were unable to get any names or contact details at the time, it could be beneficial to return to the scene and talk to local residents or shopkeepers. They may be able to verify exactly how long the pothole has existed for, and whether anyone else has suffered a similar accident.
See a doctor
To make a claim, you must have suffered some kind of damage. To prove that this is the case, we recommend that you seek expert medical advice, if you have not already done so. This demonstrates a clear link between your injuries and your pothole accident. It is also in your best interests, as you might have an underlying injury that has not yet been diagnosed.
Report your accident
Next, report your accident to the organisation responsible for that section of road, pavement, cycle lane or another area.
If your pothole accident happened on a public highway (such as pavement, road or cycle path), contact the local authority responsible for that highway and say that you would like to report an accident.
If your pothole accident happened in a public place, such as a supermarket, ask to speak to the manager and request that the incident is recorded in the Accident Book.
Finally, if your pothole accident happened on private property, contact the owner of the premises and describe the details of your accident.
If you are not sure how or where to report your accident, do not worry. We can explain the process and, if you like, can submit a report on your behalf. If the police attended the scene of the accident, then we can also request a copy of the police report. This is usually applicable if the accident involved a serious collision between vehicles, and/or between vehicles and cyclists.
Record your financial losses
Have you bought any medication because of your pothole accident? Have you had private medical treatment or rehabilitation for your injuries? Keep the receipts and a written record of all the money you have lost because of your accident. These expenses can be recovered later down the line.
Contact our personal injury lawyers
Finally, speak to our accident injury lawyers as soon as you are able. It can be difficult to know what your options are following a pothole accident. Local councils rarely admit fault and will likely deny any wrongdoing. We can explain whether you have grounds for an injury claim. Most of our claims are run on a no-win, no-fee basis. This means you do not have to worry about legal fees, as we will only be paid if your claim succeeds.
Pothole claims and minors
Sometimes, the injured party is a child. If your child has been harmed because of a pothole, you should know that they have until their 21st birthday to finalise a claim. However, the problem with pothole claims is that the evidence can quickly disappear. CCTV footage may be wiped, while the pothole itself may be repaired. Because of this, we advise that you still contact us shortly after the accident. This ensures we can secure the necessary evidence. We can then explain whether your child should wait until adulthood to bring a claim, or whether you should pursue a claim on your child’s behalf.
Pothole accident compensation
If your injury claim succeeds, you will be awarded compensation for your physical, psychological and financial damages. Potholes accidents can result in a range of injuries, from broken bones to catastrophic head injuries. Your compensation award (or that of your children) will reflect the damage that has been done.
Who pays for my compensation award?
Exactly who pays for your compensation depends on who was responsible for maintaining the road, pavement, cycle lane or another area that caused your pothole accident.
Most highways are the responsibility of local authorities, including all public roads and pavements. If your accident happened in one of these places, you will make a claim against the local authority in question, which will then pay for your compensation award.
If your accident happened in a public place such as a supermarket car park, the owner or occupier of the premises will be held to account. Their public liability insurance will cover the cost of your claim.
Things become slightly more complicated if your accident happened on private property. You might be able to pursue a claim against the landowner if he/she has insurance in place. We will discuss this with you in more detail when you contact us for a free initial enquiry.
If you have suffered injuries because of a pothole accident, please contact us now for a free initial enquiry. We act for clients across England and Wales. Wherever you live, we can help.
You can call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.