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Legal advice: It's you versus the Highways Agency

Published: 12 January 2010

Updated: 19 November 2014

"I was travelling home at night on a minor country road. Next thing I knew, I was spinning around like a top as I came around the corner and had to let go of the bike. I haven't injured myself (thankfully) but when I picked the bike up there was mud all over it. I checked the road and there was a thick layer of mud on my side of the road, which caused me to lose control.  

"I went back and photographed the scene and have got some very detailed photos. I also photographed the bike with all the mud in situ. I also noticed that the mud had been caused by an HGV or large van eroding into the verge and throwing the mud onto the highway, I photographed that as well. The road does not have any width or weight restrictions in place which I suspect may render them to some degree negligent in my case.

"I guess the challenge would be that I should have observed the mud, but as it was dark and deposited on a slight uphill left bend into a left hand corner, I didn't stand much chance. It's a 20mph limit which I was adhering to (that's why I'm still here) but as the bike spun on the mud, the damage is quite extensive and I would estimate would run into several thousand pounds, not to mention the clothing I was wearing. I was interested to know whether you felt there was any likelihood of pursuing a claim for damage to the vehicle (I'm TPFT), loss of use, reasonable travel expenses, damage to clothing and personal effects etc.
I¹m hoping that it can be argued that the Council have been negligent in not imposing restrictions on a road that is clearly unsuitable for HGVs."
Andy McKay, email
I do not hold up much hope of a successful claim against the highway authority/council for the state of the road as if caused fairly recently by a HGV or van then they are unlikely to have been aware of the dangerous state of the road. The Motor Insurers¹ Bureau (MIB) can compensate victims of untraced drivers although they do not pay property damage in cases where the responsible vehicle has not been identified. They would potentially compensate for injuries if we argued that the mud arose from the negligent use of a motor vehicle (which appears to be the case) but of course you are not injured.
I think you will struggle with a claim but there is no harm in sending a letter to the local highways department to see their response. I do not think you will succeed. Remember that if you do pursue this then the claim must be issued at court within three years of the date of the accident to prevent the claim from becoming stature barred.

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