Can I claim for a cycling injury caused by poor road conditions?
A 2023 article in road.cc lays bare the shocking state of British roads and the danger that potholes pose to cyclists. In a recent survey it was revealed that 62% of adults think it is too dangerous to cycle on England's roads.
If you have suffered a cycling injury as a result of a poorly maintained road surface, you may be able to claim financial compensation.
How common are cycling accidents on poorly maintained roads?
According to a recent survey for the 2022 National Pothole Day, 21% of cyclists have been involved in an accident due to potholes. More than 1/5th of these accidents resulted in a personal injury. The survey also revealed that 88% of cyclists had been forced to make hazardous manoeuvres to avoid potholes, and 63% suffered bike damage after hitting a pothole.
When roads are poorly maintained, even experienced cyclists may lose control of their bikes and collide with kerbs, bollards, lamp posts, or other vehicles.
Cyclists are at risk from a range of road defects, including slippery surfaces caused by worn tarmac, gravel, oil spills, as well as raised manhole covers, sunken potholes, and drains. When a cyclist's front wheel hits a curb, manhole cover, or pothole, it may stop suddenly, while the cyclist's momentum carries them forward, throwing them over the handlebars. Sliding on a slippery surface can also cause a cyclist to fall.
Cyclists have limited protection against hard surfaces, and the impact of an accident can be devastating, particularly at high speeds. Riders may sustain fractures, head injuries, or concussion, even if they are wearing a helmet.
Who would I make a claim against?
Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency) is responsible for the operation, maintenance and improvement of motorways and major A roads.
Roads in Wales are managed by the Welsh Government.
Local roads are managed by the relevant council or local authority.
London roads are managed by Transport for London (TFL).
Your solicitor will identify who was responsible for the road defect that led to your accident.
Can I claim compensation?
If you can demonstrate that your accident was caused by the local authority's or other party's failure to maintain the road surface, you may be able to claim compensation for your injuries and any losses.
However, Highways England and local authorities are allowed a ‘reasonable time frame’ in which to identify and repair road defects, and they may try to defend a claim by showing that they inspected the location recently or that there were no defects at the time.
Not all road defects are the responsibility of the local authority, and some may be created by other entities such as utility companies.
If the road surface is not adequately repaired by the utility company, you may be able to bring a claim against the company who carried out the work on the road.