The local highway authority, which is usually the council, has a duty of care to maintain the safety and usability of roads that are kept at public expense. These responsibilities are set out in the Highways Act 1980, which stipulates that if a highway agent can demonstrate that they made adequate provision for upkeep and safety as can be reasonably expected, a defence will be in place for any claims made against them.
The following article explains the duties of the Highway Authority, their rights and responsibilities and how they are influenced by the Highways Act 1980.
Who are the Highway Authority?
The right highway authority for each person will depend upon location. In the majority of areas, county councils or metropolitan councils will serve as the main authority. In London, the authority will be either a borough council or Transport for London.
In some cases, a district council, parish council or a community council will serve as the authority for roads in that area. Their authority will be granted by the main highway authority, and this will mean that responsibility for road maintenance will be passed on to them.
None of the authorities above are required to improve roads in their area, only maintain them. The duty of a highway authority is to maintain the road to ensure that it is safe and can handle the ordinary amount of traffic that uses that highway or that can be expected to make use of it.
Duties of Highways Authorities
There are a number of legal duties that must be observed by each highway authority to ensure that roads are safe and passable. This includes:
- To maintain public roads to a standard that ensures they are safe and passable
- To make adequate provisions to ensure that safety measures are in pace for adverse weather conditions, such as icy pavements and roads.
- To recognise the character of each road within their care to ensure that it is maintained effectively for the volume and type of traffic use.
- To ensure appropriate warning signs are in place for any dangers on the road
- To maintain adequate records of works and repairs carried out on the road
- Make repairs as swiftly as possible to any known damages to the road and to ensure that any damage that isn’t immediately fixed is communicated to road users.
If a claim is made against a highway authority, to provide a satisfactory defence, the agency must be able to prove that they had not breached their duty of care and that all reasonable measures had been taken to prevent harm to road users.
Have you been injured on a road or pavement?
If you have been injured in an accident and believe that the poor state of the road or pavement was the cause, you may have a valid claim for personal injury compensation.
In the majority of cases, claims for personal injury have a three year time limit, so it is important to initiate your claim as soon as possible after your accident. If the person injured is under 18 years old, the time limit does not begin to count down until their 18th birthday.
To discuss the circumstances of your accident and find out if you are entitled to make a claim, contact our team of experienced solicitors. We provide a free case assessment service, where you can find out if you have a valid claim without any obligation to proceed. If we can help and you wish to continue with your claim, we will provide you with a no win no fee service.