On 6 November 2012 David (name changed) an experienced cycle courier was halfway through his workday of deliveries around London, and looking for the safest route to the Battleship Building on the Harrow Road.
As he approached the building at around 1:30pm, David’s attention was distracted by the traffic and confusing roads under the A404 overpass. Unbeknownst to him, David was approaching two potholes at a speed of about 15 mph. As his front wheel clipped the potholes, he lost his balance and crashed to the tarmac .
David suffered a broken wrist, multiple soft tissue injuries and lacerations. He was unable to continue his job as a courier, greatly affecting his family’s income.
He instructed Dowse & Co. in the knowledge that we had acted for many other pothole victims.
After reviewing the case, we determined that Westminster Council was responsible for the highway directly under the A404 overpass. Council highway authorities are under a statutory duty to maintain public highways to a safe and reasonable standard. Had the highway authority maintained this road, David would have been in good health and not out of work for many months.
As with many pothole cases, Westminster Council rested its defence on the grounds that they inspected roads in the borough on a regular basis ( monthly in this case). The Council provided detailed inspection records. But they made a critical error. They claimed that anything over 55 millimeters deep would be deemed a defective pothole thus requiring repairs.
We were able to research this topic and provided evidence that under the borough’s Highways Maintenance Management Plan published in 2005, a defective pothole must be deeper than 22 millimeters to require fixing. Based on David’s photographs provided from the scene of the accident, the two potholes in question were clearly deeper than 22 millimetres.
Further, we were able to demonstrate that the council inspectors failed to identify the potholes on two visits in late November and December, in other words after the accident, and the implication was therefore that they had also missed the potholes in October 2012, before the accident. So, while the policy was in line with a decent statutory defence the implementation was not, proving fatal to any defence, in our view.
The council at no time admitted fault and court proceedings were commenced on 5 November 2013, on behalf of David, and after we had endeavored to settle the claim in October.
In January 2014 the defendant made an acceptable offer in line with our valuation. Our client recovered £6,800 damages.
Pothole cases are often aggressively defended by local authorities and a high proportion require the claimant to issue court proceedings before any settlement is possible. In such circumstances you need experienced and expert legal advice on the merits of your case to be confident about pursuing a claim successfully.
We firmly contend that holding highway authorities accountable for potholes over time contributes to the safety of all road users in improved practice and maintenance.
Joshua O’Connor, Dowse & Co.- April 2014