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Can cyclists make a claim if injured because of potholes?

Let’s face it, UK roads can be a bit of a mess – pock-marked with great swathes of potholes and near-crater sized gaps which if you don’t mind will ensure that you go the same way as dear Alice did and kick-start your own misadventures in a not-so wondrous land.

Cyclists have never had it so bad (unless you’re the type that prefers to head off-road and into the mountains every weekend that is), as they skirt with one near disaster whilst circumnavigating humongous potholes with the dimensions of a small Pacific island and another, located just around the corner. And that’s before you factor in the everyday risk to life presented by the errant and often unaccommodating motorist with whom they ‘share’ the road.

Chipping in its opinion in all of this, the RAC is fervently of the belief that the presence of potholes is burgeoning, suggesting that ‘cash-strapped’ councils are opting to fill individual holes rather than resurfacing whole sections.

So, as you can imagine, many cyclists come a cropper when they’re pursuing their health and fitness goals (or helping reduce society’s carbon footprint), causing all manner of black and blueness and injuries of far more serious eventualities.

Did you know that over 1,000 cyclists suffer injuries caused by potholes every year? Which in our opinion is a staggering stat and damning indictment of the perilous condition of British roads in 2016. But just what can be done about it? It’s not like countless cyclists across the country haven’t already complained and lobbied various authorities responsible to get their act together and fill in these gaps (although nearly always met with the default ‘local council budget cuts’ retort). Well, there is always the opportunity to make a claim for compensation based on the grounds of you – the claimant – sustaining a personal injury.

It’s alright for mountain bikers who make a habit of hurtling down rock faces at breakneck speed, as they’re better kitted out (and anticipating parting company with their trusty metal steeds) to deal with sudden impacts and don’t have to plot their coordinates under two skinny slick tyres, whilst maintaining their equilibrium, wits and temper as cars continually flash past them. They simply have a mountain and the laws of gravity to deal with. But spare a thought for the road cyclist who has routinely has a catalogue of hazards to recognize and counter at any one time. And those often unavoidable potholes. Of course, you’re probably asking how cyclists can lodge a personal injury claim and who their justifiable spleen-venting should be officially aimed at.

With regards the latter – and as hinted above – if the agencies who are charged with looking after the roads in your neck of the woods (or rather, tarmac) neglect their duties in this specific area, and essentially fail to fix dangerous, health and safety-compromising road surfaces in an appropriate manner (and good time), then they are, effectively, culpable in the eyes of existing laws for any accidents which befall cyclists as a direct result.

Now, while your immediate local authority might not identify themselves as the place where the buck stops in this instance, the Highways Agency can’t get themselves off the hook so lightly as, at the end of the day, it’s this department who are ultimately responsible for the upkeep of UK roads per se. So it’s advisable to take up your beef with them if local agencies are burying their heads in the sand or playing fast and loose when it comes to acknowledging liability in the event of you picking up a nasty injury after being sprung from your bike after encountering a pothole lying in wait. That said, in order to launch a claim against either party you will need to have done your homework first, and prior to approaching them.

By that token we mean having some evidence to prove that any damage caused to you and/or your bike was inescapably down to a defect road surface. We’re talking about obtaining some circumstantial photographic evidence here or witness statements perhaps. Anything that pins you to the incident and the location of said incident would really help the claimant’s cause from the outset. It’s also your prerogative to attempt to prove that the highway authority failed in its statutory duty to keep the road safe.

Furthermore you should you be involved in a cycle incident which you fundamentally believe was instigated by the existence of a pothole, then ensure that you (or someone you trust) captures pictures of the stretch of road in question, any damage to your property (i.e, your bike) and most importantly, any injuries you’ve suffered after impacting with said pothole. And all this should be done ASAP.

If the accident is deemed serious enough in nature, then the hole may well be repaired quickly to avoid further instances/potential personal injury claims coming the way of the local agency ‘responsible’; which at least will save someone else from befalling the same injury. If your injuries at the scene are deemed serious, then have an ambulance called, and conversely always remember to make an appointment with your GP (or a health practitioner) as soon as is convenient to do so after the incident, as this will go a long way to verifying any future compensation claim you choose to pursue.

Vitally, don’t ever be afraid to claim, or take that overtly British stiff-upper-lip mentality and brush off your cycling calamity as just ‘one of those things’. If you’ve suffered an injury, and with it any subsequent physical or psychological pain, then you are entitled to seek compensation. It may be that the extent of your injury means that you’re unable to return to your normal employment for an undefined period of time, which would have an effect on a claimant’s ability to generate income, which again is something which needs to be taken into consideration and financially recompensed if it’s proven that a fractured road surface was to blame for the injury in the first place.

Motorists have long been able to claim for the damage caused to their vehicles by potholes, and rightly so (including buckled or cracked wheels, shifting wheel-balancing weights and deranged tracking to name but a few recurrent complaints), so why not cyclists? Exactly, there’s no good reason. Therefore if a potholed road has caused your accident, you should to talk to a qualified personal injury specialist immediately, as you may well be entitled to compensation for injuries and associated losses.

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