Pothole and personal injury

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Pothole and personal injury

Postby mephillips » 29 Feb 2012, 11:56am

My wife was seriously injured six months ago. She was riding down a fairly steep road (but quiet) in Durham with our toddler in the child seat on the back. The next factual information we have (as she remembers nothing about what happened) is that she was found on the road by a lorry driver. Our son was slightly injured (bad graze to scalp, big black eye) and was discharged from the hospital about 30 hours later, and has apparently made a full recovery. My wife, however, spent three and a half weeks in hospital, having fractured her jaw and other bones in the face, broken three vertebrae, badly cut her face and knocked out four teeth. She had to wear a collar and back brace 24 hours a day for a couple of months and avoid any lifting.

Fortunately various friends and neighbours rallied round to help her at home during the day. She does not work, so we had no loss of income, and little additional expense, to be honest. We've still got to see about replacing or repairing the bike (I will post on one of the other discussion boards about this).

The police investigated, and had the bike for examination. They took statements from those who had been on the scene shortly after the accident and appealed for witnesses to the actual accident, but none were found. From examining the bike they concluded that no other vehicles were involved. They reckon the accident was most likely due to the poor road surface: there was a long trench cut at some point by a utility company and the repair is badly worn in places, and there were a few deep grooves. The police took photographs and the council filled in some holes the day after the accident.

We have not seen the photos. The police say that should we wish to pursue a personal injury claim against the council that our lawyer can have copies of the photos for a small admin fee. We rang the CTC help line fairly soon after the accident but they advised waiting till the longer-term affects of the accident were clearer.

As things stand at the moment, my wife is largely her usual self again. Her lips are not as pretty as they were, and there is still the matter of the four missing teeth to deal with: it is unclear as yet whether this would be covered by the NHS as she is still to have the assessment. Her back is a bit stiff in the mornings sometimes, and her vision was affected: she had double-vision after the accident but this has largely cleared up, with residual issues only in the extremities of the field of vision. Whether there will be longer term back problems, who knows?

With the accident to recover from we had hardly begun to think about whether to seek any compensation from the council. I don't know on what basis damages are assessed: if it's purely financial we have not really lost very much. And how do damages account for the fact that there may be more serious back pain which might emerge a few years down the line? Can you seek further damages later, when it becomes clear, and if so is it important to get the liability established now?

The other point I'd like comment on is more philosophical. We're not itching to engage in litigation, and I would much rather the council spend the money on road repairs than on damages. Is there any evidence that successful claims for damages cause councils to reprioritise and over the longer term lead to an improvement in road maintenance? Or do damages just drain the council of money for repairs and actually cause the general public to suffer from worse roads? We've been a little more active in reporting missing road markings, potholes, and so on since the accident, but of the three things we've reported, only a broken bench has been fixed. The large pothole along our own street remains unfilled after a couple of months (admittedly it's a residential side road), so in some ways I'd like to see the council kicked into action, but what is the best way of getting better road maintenance, in the end?

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Re: Pothole and personal injury

Postby thirdcrank » 29 Feb 2012, 1:08pm

In a case like this the best source of advice has to be a lawyer. have a look at this:


Pothole claims are not straightforward so that's all the more reason for getting proper advice.

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Re: Pothole and personal injury

Postby snibgo » 29 Feb 2012, 3:06pm

Welcome to the forum, but sorry about the circumstances. All the best to your wife.

Getting a lawyer is the obvious course of action. Damages can certainly include elements for pain and suffering. One difficulty here might be proving the damaged road was responsible for the accident.

On the wider question of litigation and repairs: it seems to me that without the threat of litigation, local authorities wouldn't repair roads. A road near me had a bad patch that the council knew about but didn't fix for months. When a car lost control and nearly sent me flying, I sent them a firm letter, and the road was very quickly fixed.

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Re: Pothole and personal injury

Postby gaz » 29 Feb 2012, 6:35pm


There is a pothole thread which gives some details of the process and the Highway Authority's usual defence. Remember the CTC lawyers will fight the battle for you and guide you as to whether or not settlement must be full and final or open to subsequent developments. Whatever happens it will take a considerable time so keep the ball rolling.
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Re: Pothole and personal injury

Postby Phil_Lee » 1 Mar 2012, 12:22am

+1 on the above comments.

I'd add that it is worth remembering that damages are decided under civil law, so you don't have any obligation to prove that the pothole(s) caused the accident beyond reasonable doubt, as would be the case in criminal court (although it's great if you can). It will be decided on the balance of probability, which is likely to be much more straightforward, given that the police seem to be fairly sure that this was the case, and I'd expect their report to be of great value in making the claim.

Good luck, and best wishes for your wife's continued and complete recovery.