What is a pothole accident?
A pothole is a structural failure in a road surface usually caused by water weakening the surface followed by passing traffic causing lasting damage. Roads in the UK are not considered to be in the most ideal state and as roads worsen from adverse weather conditions during the winter months, motorcyclists are understandably wary of having to navigate large potholes. The UK is currently going through a pothole crisis with an cost of £9bn estimated to fix the situation over the next 10 years.
While potholes are an ongoing problem for all road users, there is a greater level of danger for motorcyclists with the possibility of serious injuries and even fatalities for motorcyclists. Having just two wheels on the ground and a lower weight than cars, motorcyclists are ill-equipped to handle potholes. Sometimes, especially when riding at night, a pothole may not be seen causing surprise and shock to the victim. There are no metal cages, large tyres or suspensions to cushion the impact. It will usually be skin and bone onto a hard tarmac surface.
This is why pothole accidents involving cyclists usually involve serious compensation amounts. You therefore need an experienced solicitor to represent you.
What to do if involved in a pothole accident
1) Take photographs of the pothole
Once yourself and any other road user is no longer in danger, you should take photographic evidence of the pothole in question. Take photographs from multiple angles, ensure the quality is good and make sure that they show how deep and wide it is. If this is not immediately possible, return as soon as possible with a camera or request that a family member or friends does so. Time is imperative as the evidence will no longer be possible if the council have plans to fill the pothole in the near future. When presented to the course and local council, this evidence will be able to inform the full nature of the defect that caused the accident. The pothole must be at least 40mm in depth and the deeper and wider it is will result in a better claim.
2) Take photographs of your injuries
Try and take photographs of your injuries as soon as possible. Again, this will be used as evidence to show the severity of the accident and dispute any dubious arguments from the responsible party about how the accident was caused. The photos will show the injuries sustained and as such, more likely than not, what could have caused them. In addition, early photographs of the injury will provide a graphic illustration of the injury that is often lost to the insurance company or lawyers acting for the council when its time to value your compensation. Their argument will be to simply look at facts and figures but, as a tactic, we would always advocate disclosure of the pictures to the other side when it comes to settlement. This gives the added impact that is often needed to depict the seriousness of the injuries.
3) Write down the address of nearby houses
Why would we recommend this? Because, no matter how serious your injuries, the local council will have an absolute defence to your claim if they can show they had a regular system of inspecting the road before your accident. The example we give to clients is to explain what will happen if a council official had inspected the road the day before your accident. Upon that inspection, there was no defect found. However, if overnight the road surface crumbled and created a pothole which later in the day caused the accident, the council will not be found to blame as they cannot be held responsible for every defect in the road. There are limited resources and the law will take this into account. By taking down a nearby address you can defect any claim from the council that that they have inspected the road and found no defect. For a stronger case, you could present evidence from someone living close to the pothole to determine how long it’s been present.
4) Are there any witnesses?
If there are witnesses present during your accident, make sure that you obtain their full contact details. All adequate and professional solicitors will inform their clients that witnesses who support a claim are like ‘gold dust‘ and often make the difference between winning and losing a claim.
5) Be clear what you say at hospital or to your GP
This may seem obvious, but if you are in pain or disorientated then you may not be in a situation to say the right thing which can have disastrous results. For instance, a medical consultant may ask how you injured yourself and respond with ‘I fell off my bike’. This entry could be in your medical notes and could be used as evidence against your claim to suggest you didn’t strike a pothole. The absence of the word ‘pothole’ makes it more difficult (but not always impossible) to prove that your accident was not of your own doing and increases support of the argument that you fell off the bike rather than due to the council’s negligence. Your medical notes are close to the time of the incident and thus present a more accurate story with less time to make up lies.
6) Find the right injury solicitor
Sometimes this is easier said than done but the first thing to do is ask a lot of questions including what their ‘success fee’ will be should you win your claim. Most injury solicitors charge up to 25% of any compensation that you win. So, for example, if you are awarded £10,000 then you may only receive £7,500 while the solicitor pockets £2.500 (25%). Most of our clients are charged less than this amount as our success fee is often set at stages, so the earlier the case is settled, the less the success fee our clients will have to pay.
This is why it is extremely important to consult with a firm of motorbike accident solicitors who are directly experienced in pothole claims. As experts in this area, we will deal with your case free of legal costs if you lose and more often, lower success fees should you win. Call us today on 0800 011 2757 / 0151 724 7121 or complete our online contact form to find out more.