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Crashing into a pothole - what happened next

Chris Peck's picture
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In 2008, I was riding to work in central London when I hit a pothole, catapulting me over the handlebars into the road. I incurred nasty facial injuries and the crash destroyed my bike. CTC's legal team forced the highway authority into admitting liability, resulting in compensation being paid out.
Chris in the pothole that brought him down
Chris in the pothole that brought him down

The crash happened at rush hour on a wet day. There was masses of surface water on the roads and visibility was poorer than normal.  

At the time a hotel was being constructed by the road and large construction vehicles were coming to and fro constantly. I was trying to stay well away from one of these lorries when I hit a very deep water-filled pothole, causing the front wheel on my bike to collapse and sending me face first onto the road.

Some passersby peeled me off the road and waited while an ambulance was called - even though it was only around 250 metres to hospital. There, I had eight stitches in my face.  In addition to severe facial abrasion I also had a broken nose and broken tooth.

A week on from the crash I began to suffer neck pain which greatly restricted my movement at the time. My neck remains slightly stiff to this day.

At the time I had no idea what had happened. It was only going back later that day that I realised I had hit a pothole. Fortunately, the people who had looked after me worked in a hotel opposite and agreed to give witness statements as to what had happened.

In my opinion, it was the construction traffic going in and out of the site that was the cause of the defect. Originally the road was only meant to act as a temporary surface to provide access to the building site and, from further investigation, it was uncovered that the day after the accident, the building site increased in size to cover over that section of road.

What made me most irritated was that I had reported potholes on that section of road before."

What made me most irritated was that I had reported potholes on that section of road before. In fact, that road is one of the places with the most reports on fillthathole.org.uk.

The fact that Transport for London - the highway authority in charge of that road - had been made aware of the poor surface meant it was harder for them to deny liability. In cases involving claims against highway authorities due to road defects, local authorities rely on the 'Section 58' defence, by which they claim that they have a reasonable maintenance programme for the section of road in question and did not know of the hazards' existence.

Thanks to the excellent work from CTC's legal team, Transport for London accepted liability and made me a four figure compensation offer a year or so on from my crash. But that compensation doesn't really cover me for the year or so of reduced cycling due to neck pain, nor the permanent scarring.

I'm now much more scrupulous about reporting potholes when I see them, knowing that someone else may be in the same position as me and, if they aren't reported then they won't get repaired.

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