In these strange and surreal times, there is of course only one topic of conversation amongst my ‘biker friends. Of course, it is potholes!
It was therefore with great interest that I read the MAG Central Office email of 24 March 2020 about the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey and the shocking statistics about motorcyclist injuries arising from poor road maintenance.
Working exclusively for injured motorcyclists means, of course, those who have been injured because of potholes, and I thought it might be useful to give some practical guidance on these cases.
If you are unlucky enough to take a spill on a poorly covered surface, it is worth looking to see if you have a claim against the local Highway Authority. If you’ll pardon the analogy, though, it is a minefield.
As with all cases, proof is everything. Having precise evidence will be the difference between success and failure in a claim.
First things first. Identify the exact defect. Take some photographs! If it is safe to do so, of course. But remember, “Location Location Location” – don’t just take a beautifully crisp photograph of a hole in the road.….. Where is it? Stand back, show the whole stretch of road with any signage, street furniture etc. so that you can show precisely the offending pothole. Take some close-ups, too, but please provide some context. How big is it? Put something recognisable next to it (a 50p piece, for example).
Was it definitely that hole in the road which caused you to come off and injure yourself? You need to prove it. Were there any witnesses? Get details.
Take the pictures as soon as you can after the incident happened and with proof of the date you are taking them. There’s a reason for this. The relevant Highway Authority will be able to defend a claim if it can prove that a defect – however dangerous – did not exist at the time of the incident, or was not at what they deem to be an ‘actionable’ level.
They can also escape liability if they can prove that they had a “reasonable” system of inspection and repair. Of course, “reasonable” is subjective and will be subject to the Court’s interpretation.
Finally, and again as with all personal injury claims, there must be a proven link between the negligence and any injuries sustained.
Just as a side comment, it is also possible to bring a claim if you have been injured in a slip on diesel, or debris on the road caused by another vehicle. The same guidelines and advice apply with regard to evidence. It can be really difficult (especially in shock and pain after a tumble) to identify the hazard. Then the same sequence applies as for potholes, proving the reason for coming off, and that this caused the injuries. If the wrongdoer cannot be identified, it may still be possible to bring a claim.
If in doubt, ask! Call me for a chat if you want some independent legal advice. You can contact me via MAG or the Sorrymate.com website.
MAG’s email also reminded me of an incident which occurred about five years ago, which could be entitled “Without Prejudice – Part 2”.
I had been in some meetings in That London. I was – unusually for me – sharply suited with high heels and a briefcase, i.e. not looking like a typical ‘biker.
My train pulled into Crewe, where I was told my connecting train had been cancelled. The operator had organised a taxi to my home town, if I didn’t mind sharing that with another passenger?
My travelling companion needed no encouragement to make conversation. He told me during the journey that he worked for the Department for Transport, then went on at some length about the projects he’d been working on. These included “traffic calming” measures, average speed cameras, bus lanes and environmental issues.
I listened to him for a while, paying particular attention to the parts about bus lanes, pollution, and urban transport, and waiting for him to say whether any sensible national and co-ordinated announcement was going to be made on the subject of motorbikes, but nothing.
Eventually, as we were about five minutes from our destination, I could keep quiet no longer. I said “And what about motorcyclists?”
“Oh,” he said, “We don’t care about them”.
He had a very uncomfortable last five minutes of the journey! Thank you to MAG for providing me with the ammunition to blast back at him.
Finally, finally, no prizes for guessing why I used the title for this piece…
Originally posted in Motorcycle Action Group MAG Magazine
The writer, Liz Hoskin, is a solicitor and Accredited Senior Litigator with the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers. She rides a Triumph Bonneville America and a 1995 Ducati Monster. SorryMate is a firm of solicitors working exclusively to help ‘bikers get the compensation they deserve after an accident, and offering advice to bikers on a range of other legal matters.