Why it’s important to use specialist cycling accident Solicitors

Category: Cycling Accident, Personal Injury, Road Accident

Claim against a local highway authority

A recent case in the High Court has highlighted the importance of using specialist cycling accident Solicitors. The case concerned a charity cycling event organised by Ride London. The race attracted 16,000 participants and saw them cycle some 100 miles. During the event, one of the competitors hit a depression in the tarmac which was at least 30mm deep. This caused him to fall off his bike and injure himself. The claim was initially successful and the cyclist was awarded £38,000 in damages.

The Highway Authority, Surrey County Council, felt that the Judge had applied the wrong legal test in deciding whether or not there was a breach of duty entitling the claimant to compensation.

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Re-examine the case

The High Court who heard the Appeal took the opportunity to re-examine some of the previous case law for accidents of this kind.

The High Court confirmed that the legal test to be applied in considering whether the Local Authority has breached its duty of care has been explained and developed over the years. The Judge was keen to stress that although it was reasonably foreseeable that any defect in the highway however slight might cause an injury that was not the legal test for determining whether it was dangerous.

The correct test: The defect has to be the sort of danger which an Authority might reasonably be expected to guard against.

Previous cases

The Court referred to a Court of Appeal Case from 2008 called Jones -v- Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council. In that Case, a fireman attended a minor fire, set on a riverside footpath running beneath a bridge. As the fireman attempted to put the fire out, his foot slipped off an eroded area of the footpath. He badly injured his ankle in doing so. The Court of Appeal confirmed that the Local Authority had an absolute duty to main the public highway. However. it was an absolute duty that it should be maintained to an ‘objectively reasonable standard’. It was not merely a duty to take reasonable care of the highway. The Court confirmed that the foreseeability of harm from a defect will not lead to the conclusion that the highway is unsafe.

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The Court referred to an earlier Case from 1993. Here, a Court of Appeal Judge said “in one sense it is reasonably foreseeable that any defect in the highway however slight, may cause any injury but that is not the test as what is meant by dangerous. It must be the sort of danger which an Authority may reasonably be expected to guard against”. In the fireman’s case because the path was very rarely used, it was generally in good repair. There was ample room for passing and repassing and the erosion of the riverside was perfectly obvious. The Court therefore decided that there was no duty on the Local Authority to repair that defect. Accordingly, the fireman’s claim was lost.

Using specialist cycling accident Solicitors

Returning to the cycling event injury claim, the High Court were unable to match the Judge’s findings with the evidence. This, was despite the Judge having applied the correct legal test. The fact that 12,400 cyclists had passed successfully was important evidence in determining whether the road was dangerous or not. But he hadn’t mentioned how he still managed to come to the decision that the road was ‘very dangerous’. In other words, how could the road could be dangerous if 12,400 cyclists had cycled over it safely.

This case shows that claims against the Local Highway Authority can be difficul. It’s therefore vitally important to use specialist cycling accident Solicitors when pursuing a case. That way, you are safe in the knowledge that your case will be put on the strongest possible footing.

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What now?

If you’ve been involved in a cycling accident, we’d strongly recommend you speak to a law firm soon. Michael Shiers is Head of our Personal Injury team here at Nash & Co Solicitors. Both he, and the team havesignificant experience in dealing with cycling accidents. Give us a call on 01752 827085, or email the team at [email protected].

You can also ask us to call you back by filling out the form on the Contact page.