Know How: to collect evidence if you trip over a pothole
According to Which?, the consumer watchdog, the backlog of road maintenance runs into the billions. Potholes develop. Potholes remain. Potholes get bigger. Nothing is done. In 2011 the government commissioned a Potholes Review and allocated an extra £200 million for local highway authorities. You may wonder where this vast amount of money has been spent as you walk around your own town as there is still a problem with potholes.
Your local council has a duty to maintain and repair the roads and pathways which is set out in an act of Parliament. If the local council does not maintain its roads and pathways and a member of the public has an accident then the local council may be responsible. Personal Injury lawyers did not create the act of Parliament – the government set themselves a standard and held themselves accountable. If they fail to meet that standard then they will be responsible for injuries and losses that occur.
Whether the local council is responsible for your accident is all about two issues – how dangerous the pothole is and knowledge.
Sizing up the pothole
PI Support have many years dealing with potholes and pavements. Whether a pothole is dangerous is a matter of evidence. Most local council won’t need to repair a pothole unless it is over 20mm deep on the pavement or 25mm deep if it is on the road.
If you have fallen on a pothole the first thing that your solicitor will need to see is the pothole itself – so you will need to take some photographs.
You may be surprised how important the minute details are. Your solicitor will want to know how deep the pothole is, how wide it was and where exactly you tripped.
You will need to take a measuring tape or a ruler with you and take some photographs which show the exact dimensions of the pothole.
Your solicitor will be able to examine the photographs and let you know whether the pothole is dangerous.
Knowledge is power
Your local council will only be responsible for an injury if they knew or should have known about the pothole.
All local councils will have a department which is responsible for checking the roads and pavements for potholes. The local council will send an inspector to make those checks on the council’s behalf. How often they visit your street depends on several factors such as the make-up of your local area. If you live in a busy city then you can expect the local council will make more frequent checks than if you live in a quiet rural area.
Often an injured person has to prove that the council’s inspector has missed a dangerous pothole the last time they came to your area. Inspections can be done on foot but sometimes the inspectors do not leave the comfort of their car and a driven inspection is carried out!
The burden is most likely going to be on you to prove that the pothole has been in place (and in a dangerous condition too) since the inspector did his or her inspection. This is often a matter of evidence. You may need the help of local residents and people who are familiar with the local area and able to give a good account of how long the pothole has been there.
Your solicitor will need to speak with anyone who might be able to say how long the pothole has been in the dangerous condition. Let your solicitor have details of the contact details of anyone who might be able to help and they will contact them to see whether they might help your case.
Claims against the local council are difficult to win and the investigation of such claims is a team effort between you and your solicitor. Try to help your solicitor out as much as possible and they will be able to give you the best advice on pursuing a claim.
We hope this is clear but if you wish to discuss this article then please contact us.