If a person suffers an injury following an accident on a public road because the road was not safe, the victim may be eligible to make a personal injury claim through the Highways Act 1980. This is an Act that sets out the responsibilities and obligations of road owners, usually local authorities and councils, with regards to maintaining the safety and usability of highways. If a public road is not maintained adequately and this leads to an accident, the highway agent can be held accountable and liable for any injuries and losses sustained.
The following article explains how a personal injury claim can be made through the Highways Act 1980, what is included in the act, what is considered as inadequate road maintenance and how decisions are made regarding liability and settlements.
What is covered in the Highways Act 1980?
The Highways Act 1980 sets out the responsibility of highway agents to improve, maintain and provide roads throughout England and Wales. The act is thorough and lengthy, though the main provisions relating to personal injury claims are laid out in Sections 36 to 61 of Part 4 of the Act. This area includes the requirement of agents to repair and maintain highways as per their agreed remit.
This area of the Act sets out that:
“This duty to maintain means that the highway agent must keep the road in such good repair, that it is reasonably passable for the ordinary traffic of the area”.
The Act goes on to detail that agents must maintain records of all work carried out on roads and such records will be used to determine the level of diligence, care and planning given to adequately upkeeping the safety of the highways in the event of a claim.
What is considered as being inadequate road maintenance?
The legislation explains that a poorly maintained road is one that is not adequately safe and cannot be considered as passable. This refers to failures and breaches of the highway agent with regards to recognising, repairing and removing any defects, safety impairments and obstructions that would make a road dangerous.
There are a number of defects that can be considered as unsafe, and that can readily lead to an accident if they are not dealt with promptly and properly. This includes:
- Obstacles such as debris on the road surface
- Inadequate road signs or signs that are damaged, worn or obscured
- Potholes in the road
- Inadequate safety measures for specific events such as salting the road due to ice.
The claimant and their solicitor would need to demonstrate that the area in which the accident occurred was not adequately safe and that the incident had been caused due to an oversight or breach in the highway authorities duty of care to properly maintain the highway. Not all road defects will make a highway authority liable for a personal injury claim, and so the claimant must be able to prove that the fault was with the defendant.
How can the Highways Act 1980 help to determine liability?
To help prove liability for an accident, the Act details that reasonable foreseeable risks and dangers must be considered by highway agents in their road maintenance planning. This means that the council can be reasonably expected to recognise that obstacles on a road could lead to an accident or that a pothole that is not repaired could cause injury to pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.
A court which needs to determine the responsibility for injuries and damage suffered would refer to Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980. This requires the court to consider the following points:
- If the claimant contributed to the accident
- How the road is used by other drivers and pedestrians
- Whether the level of maintenance given to the road was sufficient and appropriate
- Whether the state of repair of the road is reasonable for what can be expected of the highway by road users.
- Whether it is fair to presume that the highway agent could have been expected to know about any dangerous conditions of the road.
- Whether adequate signage was in place for any repairs, obstructions or risks that could not be immediately rectified.
The Highways Act 1980 serves to offer guidance on personal injury claims processes and provides the legal grounds and considerations for both parties with regards to pursuing a legal case.
Do I have a claim against the highway authority?
If you have been injured in an accident within the past three years that was caused by a poorly maintained road, pavement or walkway, you could be entitled to claim compensation. To have your accident and injury assessed by an experienced personal injury solicitor, call free on 0800 678 1410 or request a call back. If you have a valid claim, your solicitor can help you pursue your claim for accident compensation on a no win no fee basis.