How to Make a Pothole Accident Claim

06 September 2018

Potholes can be dangerous, posing a significant risk to pedestrians, cyclists and other road users if they are not dealt with properly by those responsible. If you have been injured in an accident that was caused by a pothole, you could be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Common Pothole Accidents

Some of the most common accidents that can occur as a result of potholes include:

  • pedestrians tripping over a pothole
  • cyclists or motorcyclists coming off their bike after hitting a pothole

Who is Responsible for Repairing Potholes?

This depends on who owns, manages or occupies the land on which the pothole is situated.

If the pothole is on private land, then the occupier would be responsible, as it's their duty to maintain the roads and pavements on their land. If they fail to repair damage and maintain these areas to the appropriate standard, and the pothole is found to be a danger to visitors, then there may be a breach of their duty under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. For a court to find that the pothole was a danger, the pothole would have to be more than a minor defect or blemish. If they are found to have been in breach of this duty then you could be entitled to make an Occupiers Liability Claim.

When considering whether the pothole is a danger, the Court is likely to take into consideration the economic resources the occupier has. If they have a sufficient funds to cover repair costs and maintenance and the pothole is more than just a minor defect, the Court is likely to consider it reasonable for them to have carried out any necessary repairs.

If the pothole is on a public highway, then maintenance of this will fall under the responsibility of either the Highways Agency or the Local Authority. The responsibility that these organisations have to maintain public highways to a certain standard is set out in the Highways Act 1980. If they fail to meet the required standard and you are injured as a result, you could be entitled to make a Public Liability Claim.

Most local authorities will have their own standards outlining how quickly a pothole or other defect should be identified and dealt with and how big a pothole can become before it's considered serious enough to repair. Councils should have a reasonable system in place to regularly inspect roads and pavements in their area.

Often the burden on councils to repair defects will be greater in areas that have a higher volume of pedestrian and other traffic (such as town centres), as the risk of injury in these areas is greater. The Court will look at whether the local authority has met its own standards regarding inspection and repair of the highway, and will also consider whether these standards are appropriate. If they are not, the Council or other Highway Authority may well be found to have been at fault and, if you have been injured as a result, it is likely you will be entitled to claim compensation.

What to Do If You're Injured in a Pothole Accident

If you have been injured in an accident that happened because of a pothole, and you want to make a claim for compensation, there are several things that you can do to support your claim.

  1. Seek medical assistance

Obviously if you have suffered an injury, your top priority should be to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. It's important to note that, even if you think your injury may be relatively minor an expert opinion can sometimes reveal a more serious problem. As well as ensuring that you receive the appropriate medical care, this information will also be essential in supporting your claim.

  1. Take photographs of the pothole

It's important to take photographs of the pothole that has caused the accident, as it could be repaired during the course of your claim. Photographs will provide indisputable evidence of the pothole's presence at the time of the accident. It's a good idea to include a time and date stamp on the photograph and return to take additional photos at regular intervals, to demonstrate that the pothole has not been repaired within a set timeframe.

  1. Take measurements of the pothole

The size of the defect (pothole) is very important, particularly in claims being made against local authorities. Usually as a minimum the pothole needs to have a depth of at least 1 inch. In some cases this can be higher, depending on the standards that the local authority in question has set themself. Include a ruler or tape measure in photographs so that the dimensions are clearly visible.

  1. Create a Diagram

It's really valuable to illustrate where the pothole is situated and the path that you took leading up to the accident. The best way of doing this is with a diagram. It doesn't need to be complicated, simply print a satellite photo of the area and draw an X to mark the pothole location and a dotted line showing the route you took.

  1. Note down as many details as you can

It's important to record information such as what the lighting was like at the time of the accident, whether the ground was wet or dry, what time of day it was and what the visibility was like. Also record details of what you were wearing (particularly your footwear) as well as anything that you were carrying at the time.

  1. Take witnesses' contact details

If you were with anyone at the time of the accident, make sure you note down their contact details. If there were any other witnesses, such as passers-by, drivers or employees of a nearby business then ask them to provide their contact details as well.

In addition, it's worth speaking to people who live or work nearby as they may be able to confirm how long the defect has been there and whether it has been responsible for any other accidents.

At Co-op Legal Services most claims can be dealt with on a No Win No Fee basis.

More articles