So, if you find yourself hitting a pothole, loose gravel, or a spillage this useful guide should tell you everything you need to know.

Diesel or other spills

These are not the responsibility of the local authority. If you are unlucky enough to hit a diesel spill and fall off, your claim is against the driver(s) of the vehicle that deposited the spill. Easier said than done, as they have usually left the scene with no trace. In those circumstances, gather enough evidence of the spill. Get witness accounts and photographs. Your claim will succeed against the MIB under their Untraced Drivers Agreement, the fact the driver dropped the diesel and is now ‘untraced’.

I had success in tracing such a driver, in Northampton, where a CCTV camera picked up the offending lorry spilling diesel on a roundabout. This was beneficial to the biker as suing an insurer is much more attractive than an MIB action, not least on the issue of legal costs but also damage to the bike. In short, if you are insured fully comprehensively the MIB won’t meet vehicle damage claims. Whilst I don’t agree with that, those are the rules.

Loose Gravel

A biker’s worst nightmare. Local authorities constantly dig out the case of Goodes v East Sussex on the basis they are not liable for surface lying material other than ice. They are wrong if the loose gravel once formed the fabric of the highway. A gravel sample is crucial here. Scoop up enough to fill a Pot Noodle tub. The gravel needs to be analysed by a Geologist who will tell us lawyers whether the gravel was once part of the highway (in which case the local authority is liable under the Highways Act), if it has fallen off the back of a quarry lorry (in which case this is an MIB claim) or whether it is just road detritus (in which case there is no real prospect of a successful claim and the local authority would be correct in relying on Goodes v East Sussex).


Unless you have a GS (or similar dual-sport bike) these can be a real issue. The responsibility rests solely with the local authority under the Highways Act 1980. This is a non-delegable duty, so do not let them fob you off on a contractor or agent. The buck stops with them. Gather as much evidence to show the defect may be regarded as dangerous. The local authority may have a statutory defence under S.58 of the same act, but this is very case sensitive and really needs the input of a lawyer to assess the evidence and give you advice.

Lane Closures/Street works

This is really on the periphery of this topic but a recent case that went before District Judge Taylor sitting at Torquay & Newton Abbot County Court is worth a mention. The biker was riding along a dual carriageway. Up head was a lane one closure (by use of traffic cones and signs). It just so happened that traffic was allowed to use lane two but also a layby to the nearside; rejoining up ahead after the lane one closure ended.

The biker chose to go left and use the layby. It was still early morning and dark (there was no street lighting in this layby). As he rode, he got disorientated and hit a kerb, falling from his machine and suffering injury. The kerb was not guarded by cones and the contractor defended the case on the basis this was normal practice. Their case was to blame the biker for rider error. The Judge found the contractor had failed in their obligations to the biker and a breach of the relevant codes of practice.

Liability was won on a 100% basis and an early offer, which the biker beat at trial, meant he was awarded a further 10% on top plus interest. Whilst a modest value case, the biker had approached two other solicitors who had rejected the claim as doomed to fail. I pushed this onto trial and won outright. These types of cases are rare but relevant to us all. They hold those working on the roads to higher standards with the benefit of increased safety for all road users.

Gavin Grewal

This article first appeared in the April 2022 issue of Slipstream, the member magazine for Thames Valley Advanced Motorcyclists (TVAM), UK’s largest advanced motorcycle coaching club and an official provider of IAM RoadSmart’s Advanced Rider Course. If you live in the Thames Valley area and are interested in becoming a member of TVAM please see their website at