Most cyclists will know the challenges of cycling on Britain’s roads, among them the condition of many routes. David Rowlands explains what you should do if you have an accident because of disrepair on the roads.
Q.) As a cyclist, if I’m involved in a road accident as a result of the road condition, what legal rights do I have and what should I do?
Nearly 100 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads in the last two years due to potholes and other defective surfaces.
In 2015, the latest year for which figures are available, 46 people were knocked off their bikes because of unsafe road surfaces. A year earlier, 53 cyclists were killed or seriously hurt.
Under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980, local councils have an obligation to maintain public roads to a ridable condition, but as we know, this sometimes is not done to a good enough standard, leaving cyclists with injuries that are no fault of their own.
If you suffer damage to property, loss or injury due to a defect in the highway you may be able to claim from the relevant highway authority, usually the local council.
In the first instance, you should take photographs of the road condition and get a quote for any damage to your bike or other property. In this day and age, this is more possible than ever, as the most prepared cyclists invest in wearable cameras to cover their back in the case of an accident. Although photos are good for capturing the state of the scene of the accident, wearable cameras are highly reliable as they sometimes prove exactly how the incident happened.
In some cases, wearable cameras help victims take away the complex process of the authority in questions contesting the case, as they have no reasonable grounds to argue the case.
Following this, you should then report the defect the highway authority responsible for maintaining the road. It is also advisable to look on Potholes and see if the highway has already been reported. If it has, be sure to make a note of this.
A personal injury solicitor will then be able to give you some advice on making a claim.
In the unfortunate event you sustained an injury, the claims process is quite complicated and lengthy, so you would be well advised to appoint a lawyer who is highly experienced in cycling accident claims.
If there is injury involved and/or the claim is worth a substantial sum, a lawyer may be able to accept the claim on a No Win No Fee basis. However, if it is a relatively minor claim (worth less than £10,000) and no injury has occurred you won’t be able to claim your legal costs back. In this case, you will either have to pay your legal fees yourself, or make a direct claim to the council.
If you do decide to take up matters with the council yourself, without legal advice or support, the council may well argue that they have a proper maintenance procedure in place which can be a valid defence to your claim under section 58 of the Highways Act.
Going alone in this case can be a lengthy process. You will need to submit a Freedom of Information request in order to obtain a copy of the procedure and details of when the site of the accident was last inspected and/or repaired. If the inspection and repair records show that the maintenance procedure was not followed then your claim should succeed.
Having an experienced personal injury solicitor in your corner will help you to get back on your feet, and, more importantly, back on your bike.
It is worth noting that any claims for personal injury must be brought within three years of the accident, and all other claims within six years of the accident.