I was on a ride, on a quiet Wednesday morning. I picked a road from a forum as a ‘good biking road’, as indeed it was, until I hit a long and deep split in the road. My front wheel got caught up in it, it knocked me off my line, and I bounced into a shallow ditch.
“The road was suboptimal but not dangerous…”
I was completely uninjured. However, my R1 was quite badly damaged cosmetically. I have written to the local council with an estimate for the repairs, which are a little over £4,000, but the council have come back and said, and I summarise, ‘The road was suboptimal but not dangerous, and having been inspected 22 days prior to your unfortunate collision, and was then deemed safe by our highly experienced highways inspector, we are satisfied we have met our legal duties, whilst we are sorry that you were injured, not every injury gives rise to a claim.’
Obviously, they really carefully read my letter as I never mentioned any injury, but I want to sue. Can I?
You can sue, whether or not you win is a different story, and if you start this up in a small claims court, you really do need to be prepared to finish it.
The law is set clear enough and it is in three stages. The first stage is. ‘is the road dangerous to an expected class of road user?’ That does include motorcyclists, and anyone else who might reasonably use the road, but it would not cover a unicyclist or a pogo stick user, for example. The test is not just for car drivers, though.
“ideally take a picture showing the size of the defect with a clear photo and a tape measure or ruler”
The photos show a road which looks like one side has slumped into a camber leaving a split in the road, exposing, I reckon, 75mm to 100mm of hard-edged ridge. That is dangerous to a motorcyclist.
You may need to look at some sources which show this is dangerous to a motorcyclist, and ideally take a picture showing the size of the defect with a clear photo and a tape measure or ruler. The easily Googled Institute of Highway’s Engineers Safer Motorcycling is a good source, especiaiiy as councils are supposed to use the best practice contained within that guidance.
“The law says you must be able to identify the dangerous defect”
The second element is that you must be prepared to say on oath that it was a particular defect which caused you to fail. This can be difficult, particularly if the road is in very bad order, and there are so many pot holes that you really cannot say which one caused you to fall off, but yours is one long and proud ridge, so not a problem for you. The law says you must be able to identify the dangerous defect.
The third element is the ‘statutory defence’, whereby if you can prove the first and second elements of the claim, but if the council can show they had a decent and working inspection regime they may have a complete defence. The relevant law is set out in section 41 and Section 53 of the Highways Act 1980 and the legal test is set out in a case called Mills v Barnsley, which is easy to find online if you need to.
“councils tend to be more sympathetic to non-injury ciaims for bent bikes or cars then they are to injured people”
In my experience, councils tend to be more sympathetic to non-injury ciaims for bent bikes or cars then they are to injured people, but my experience is that you need to start and be prepared to finish a small claim.
If you Google ‘White Dalton basic guide sue the Council‘, it will bring up forms and a court Precedent if you want to take the council to court, and for £4,000 and potentially half a day out of your life going to court, I would!
Fast Bikes January 2020