The personal injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP is currently dealing with a large number of road users who have been injured in accidents involving potholes and who want to know if they can make a claim. 

Potholes are a very common sight on the roads today and cause thousands of accidents each year. It is the local highway authority’s obligation to ensure that its roads are safe for road users so, if you have been injured in an accident involving a pothole on a public highway maintained at public expense, there may be a potential claim against the local highway authority. But bringing a claim is not as straight forward as showing that there is a pothole in the road and that it was the cause of an accident. 

Below are the key five points to consider: 

  • After demonstrating that the road was maintainable at public expense, you must then show that the highway was in such a condition as to be dangerous to traffic or pedestrians. A minor defect that may cause a pedestrian to trip would not suffice. 
  • The danger must also be one that would be considered to be a reasonably foreseeable hazard to the public if they continue to use the road. 
  • Provided that it can be shown that there is a dangerous defect, it must then be demonstrated that the defect occurred as a result of the failure to maintain or repair that highway. 
  • The local authority may still be able to successfully defend a claim if it can show that it took “such care as in all the circumstances was reasonably required”. This defence frequently comes down to a review of the maintenance and repair systems and whether there are sufficient inspections of the highways. The highways authority may also be required to produce evidence that it responds to reports of any defects and that there are systems in place to ensure that reports are actioned and the defect repaired in a timely fashion. 
  • If, however, the local authority cannot demonstrate that it has sufficient systems in place to ensure that their highways are kept in a safe repair, you may succeed with a claim. 

William Broadbent of Penningtons Manches' personal injury team commented: “We see too many clients who have suffered significant injuries as a result of an accident involving a pothole. A number of these cases, particularly those involving cyclists, have involved serious injuries. Unfortunately, these hazards are sometimes long-standing problems of which the local authority is well aware. The local authorities have an obligation to ensure that you are as safe as possible using public highways and this involves identifying and repairing defects as soon as possible. Otherwise, accidents and avoidable injuries will happen.”