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What to do in the aftermath of a crash caused by a highway defect?

Here’s what you should do if you are involved in an accident caused by a pothole, or other highway defect.

Health and medical should be your main priority following a pothole accident. Dismounts due to potholes entail a high possibility of landing forcefully on the head, face and shoulder. For this reason, it is of prime importance that you call an ambulance for assistance if anything’s displaced or you’re possibly concussed.

Head injuries can be subtle and are even missed in A&E from time to time, so if you’re feeling unsteady, nauseous, bewildered then time is everything. Don’t take a chance and think you’ll do it tomorrow, there might not be one. 

Highway defect claims are difficult. Generally, highway authorities deny all claims of this nature. With this being the case, make sure to take images of the defect (in the context of its location with a landmark or ‘datum point’ in the jargon visible) plus measurements: length, width and depth. The professional way of doing this may be improvised with a straight edge across the defect, a ruler and/or a tape. It’s called pothole profiling and for a defect to be actionable it has to have a surface dimension of 300mm or more, a sharp lip and a depth of 40mm or more.


Anything which suggests a longstanding defect will only help your case. For instance, vegetation forming, cigarette butts, or bottle tops all indicate that the pothole has been evident for a while. If possible, ask any local residents or shopkeepers how long the defect has been there. If the answer is ‘months’ then take the person’s name and contact details. Some defect victims have been known to return to the scene, particularly in semi-rural areas with a chair and accost pedestrians and dog walkers with the same question.

The reason for doing this is that the highway authorities will most likely say that they inspected the area recently and there were no defects present. Providing witnesses can help to provide a defence to any claim that the defect is a recent occurrence. Try to avoid reporting to the council for a while (if at all) and revisit the scene of the accident at a later date(s) to see if anything is actually done. Each time you do this, be sure to record the date and time you visited the scene, and a photograph always helps.

Potholes can cause problems to all kinds of road users. For cyclists in particular, they can be incredibly dangerous. It’s no surprise, in fact, that so many cyclists submit a claim for pothole damage, either against their local authority, or private landowners who may not maintain their property correctly.

If you’ve been injured after hitting a pothole whilst cycling, or even if you’ve emerged unharmed but your bicycle has suffered serious damage, it’s only natural to seek legal advice, and potentially look at claiming compensation.

At Cycle SOS, our legal team have successfully represented, since 1988, thousands of cyclists who have been involved in an accident resulting from a pothole. For these cyclists, we have gone on to obtain compensation from the authority responsible for not only the injuries sustained, but also for other costs including loss of earnings, medical assistance, and damage to the bike and kit.