14 November 2012

Rights of way: no claim against the landowner

Rights of way often do not include a right  against landowners for injury

Cycle paths on a right of way may not be the responsibility of a local authority and it may be that you will not have a claim at all if you fall from your bike because of a pothole.

Courts have held that the occupier of land over which a right of way crosses does not have a legal duty to maintain the pathway in good repair. You therefore may not have a claim at all no matter how big and dangerous the pothole when using a right of way over private land!

In essence,  when a cyclist exercises a right of way,  the landowner at that point is judged not to have control of the land and is not defined as an "occupier" with the legal obligations towards visitors normally expected.

Even if the landowner improves the right of way, say by paving, there is no obligation on him to continue maintaining the right of way if it falls in to disrepair and you will probably have no claim if you are injured due to any disrepair.

Contact Patrick Spence for more informatiom: 0207 254 6205

13 November 2012

Legal tips about pothole claims for cyclists

Every cyclist hits a pothole on the road sometime.

If cycling on the public highway,  the local authority has a statutory responsibility to maintain and repair the road such that it is fit and safe for ordinary traffic. 

If you are injured or your bike is damaged, the starting point is to decide whether the pothole  is a probable danger to cyclists. There are no rules about what size pothole qualifies but a court will have to be convinced that it was dangerous enough to cause an accident  in the particular circumstances: for example,  gaps around a drain cover can be a real danger to cyclists but not to a motorist.  

Potholes are a menace for bikes
Local authorities can defeat pothole claims if they can convince the court that they have taken reasonable care to ensure the road was not dangerous for traffic.  Therefore, the evidence that a council can bring about its inspections, repairs and maintenance programme will often be critical to the outcome of a claim. 

Compensation will often be reduced for contributory fault if the court finds that a cyclists wasn’t paying enough attention to the road ahead ( and ironically, the larger the hole the more likely that a council can run a successful argument),   or if the pothole was on a familiar route, or near the cyclist’s home. 

Again,  all road users are expected to take reasonable care of their own safety, and that includes keeping a look out on the road ahead. 

At Dowse & Co we have a good track record of vigorously pursuing pothole claims and over the years have won cases contested hard by local authorities. 

Call Patrick Spence with any queries on 0207 254 6205.

7 November 2012

Speed humps and cycle accidents?

Traffic calming measures are generally to be welcomed where they reduce traffic speed, the risk of serious accidents, and improve road safety for vulnerable road users such as children and the elderly.

For cyclists however traffic calming may not be such a straightforwardly good thing, for some measures introduce new hazards which can partly or completely negate any advantage. For example,  width restrictions can reduce the space cyclists have around them and bring cars dangerously closer; and areas of extensive calming using speed humps can cause drivers to accelerate and brake unpredictably,  and to be less aware of other road users. Perversely long roads of speed humps to negotiate can actively discourage  cyclists and many experienced cyclists  prefer free flowing main roads.

Road humps which are badly either designed or installed can be a real danger  to cyclists and by themselves cause falls and injury.For instance, Dowse & Co.  are pursuing a case at present where a metal speed barrier  which was a real and foreseeable danger to two wheeled vehicles caused a cyclist to crash while commuting  on a designated cycle route.

The Highways (Road Hump) Regulations 1996 specify that roads maintainable at public expense must not have road humps higher than 100mm and should be a minimum length of 900mm, with no vertical face to exceed 6mm in height. Humps falling outside these dimensions may be construed as foreseeably dangerous and the authority responsible may be liable in either negligence or nuisance for any injuries caused as a result.

Speed humps on private land do not have to comply with the regulations but if the humps are nevertheless foreseeably dangerous the person installing the humps may still be liable for any injury caused to a cyclist.
Speed humps are often a hazard for cyclists.

Such cases are fact sensitive and therefore it is often crucial to gather together as much evidence as possible about the speed hump when considering a claim for compensation. Relevant evidence will include photographs, measurements of the hump, whether there were warning signs or lighting, and previous reported accidents at the site.

Call Patrick Spence on 0207 254 6205 for further information.