What duties do the authorities have?
Their duty is to repair the structure of the highways if they are out of repair. To bring a claim you must prove your accident was caused by the state of the road. Where there were no witnesses, this can be hard to prove. Even if you can prove the state of the road was the cause of the accident, you must also prove the authority failed in its duty to maintain the road.
The highways authorities have a defence to show they had taken such care as was “reasonable” in the circumstances, to ensure the highway was not dangerous to traffic based upon:
- The character of the highway
- The standard of maintenance and state of repair that would normally be expected
- Whether they knew or ought to have known about the condition of the highway
- Whether it would have been appropriate to put up warning notices pending any repair
Highway authorities usually have a code of practice in place for inspections which can be accessed on the internet, failing which you can request a copy from them. Generally, provided they have complied with a code of practice, they are unlikely to be liable for any accident. In real terms inspections are often conducted by inspectors driving around in their cars and seeing if they can spot any defects. They will often be travelling at speed, moving with the flow of traffic, and the inspection itself can be very inaccurate as a result. Despite this, the Court usually accepts their evidence that a proper inspection was done.
If an accident is caused by a recently occurring defect in the road, then the authority is unlikely to be responsible, depending on what caused the defect. If the accident is caused by a more long-standing defect, particularly one which has been reported to the authority but they have failed to act upon, they are likely to be held responsible. However, proving the claim is usually difficult and if your case is that you are able to give evidence that the defect had been there for a considerable period of time before the accident they are likely to argue that you should have avoided it in any event.
As well as having to inspect the roads the authority is also responsible for maintaining records on reported accidents and their causes. You can request a copy of these for the road where you had your accident. If they show no other motorcycle accidents at the same location, particularly within the past 1 or 2 years, you are unlikely to have a case.