The main piece of legislation relating to potholes and responsibility for road maintenance is the Highways Act 1980, which obliges local councils, highway authorities and any other road owner to ensure that roads are in a safe state. This duty of care means that anyone using a road should be able to do so safely without risking an accident, including when a person walks into a pothole, trips, falls and gets injured.
However, local authorities often refuse to accept responsibility for accidents of this kind under Section 58 of the Highways Act, on the basis that they had taken all reasonable measures to identify and quickly deal with potholes on the road in question. Local authorities have a system of inspection and repair, and as long as they have regularly inspected a road, and a pothole has not been reported to them, they may seek to deny legal liability.
The success of a claim will therefore depend in large part on whether the local authority has implemented and followed an acceptable system of road maintenance. A claimant is legally entitled to access information about a local authority’s system of inspection, and also whether it was aware of a pothole, which can prove that it failed to properly maintain a road and was therefore responsible for the claimant’s injuries.
Further important evidence in support of a claim includes photographs showing the location, width and depth of a pothole, with a depth of at least one inch (2.54cm) necessary to show that it posed a significant injury risk. Poor street lighting may also be influential in proving that a road was dangerous to walk down at the time of an accident. These factors, in addition to a local authority having no defence under Section 58, will determine the ultimate success or failure of a pothole injury claim.
Find out more about claiming compensation for falls in the street: