17th December 2013
Could Liverpool be the pothole blackspot of Britain?
Personal injury solicitors in Merseyside are unlikely to be too surprised to learn that accident claims for damage caused to vehicles by an apparent epidemic of potholes in the last four years has surged by 300 per cent.
Since 2009, the number of vehicles in Liverpool needing to be repaired because of damage caused by potholes rose from just over 50 to nearly 250. However, as pothole damage increases, as is common with other authorities around the rest of Britain, accident compensation payouts have decreased.
Road conditions worse than last year...
Around Britain the number of potholes waiting to be repaired has been estimated to be more than two million, which could take anywhere between 10 and 15 years to complete. Yet it has been found that since 2009/10 spending on road maintenance by the Highways Agency has actually fallen by £560 million and by £301 million at local highway authorities. A March 2013 survey by the Automobile Association revealed that 50 per cent of members said that local road conditions were “worse” and 14 per cent said “much worse” than a year ago.
The success of a claim for damage caused on the highway is dependent on proving that the highway was not ‘reasonably safe’, in a dangerous condition, and failure to repair the highway had caused the resulting damage.
The Highway Authority has a legal duty to maintain the highway (Highways Act 1980). Under the Act, local Councils must ensure they operate a system of regular inspections and maintenance schedules. However, local authorities are known to be constantly behind in their repair works despite the common defence that they operate a regular system of highway inspections.
Repair time limit...
However, if a council can demonstrate a road had been inspected within a “set time limit” before the incident, a defence against a compensation claim can be made. It has been found that “set time limit” could range from one to 12 months depending on the “nature of the road and the volume of traffic”.
Currently, Liverpool council state that its new “inspection regime” has provided a better system by which claims can be rejected, thereby, “saving the city taxpayers millions of pounds.”
One example of “cost saving” against repair time limits recently came to light. It was reported that a female driver whose front wheel was completely damaged by a pothole on Christmas Eve sent the bill for a replacement new tyre to the council. However, the council refused to pay because they claimed the road had been inspected fourteen days earlier, on December 10. Yet, within 24 hours of receiving the bill, the offending road damage was repaired!