Getting legal advice following a highway accident


Highways include roads, streets, cycle tracks, footpaths, public paths, pavements and bridleways.

Highway authorities have a duty to maintain those roads and footways which are maintainable at public expense, which means that they may be responsible for some highway accidents.

Claiming against a public authority

While authorities are not liable for all highway accidents, if an individual sustains a personal injury or damage to their property which they believe to have been caused by the negligence or failure of the highway authorities then they may submit a claim for compensation against the relevant authority.

A highway authority will have a defence if it can show that it took such care as was reasonably required in all circumstances to ensure that the highway to which the action relates wasn't dangerous, and therefore did not cause the aforementioned highway accident.

If there is evidence, perhaps from people who live locally and who have complained before the accident, this will be very helpful. Photographs should be taken immediately after an accident and before any repairs are done.

You can also bring claims against:

  • Water companies
  • Electricity companies
  • Gas companies
  • Cable and telephone companies

What to do in an accident situation

Whether it is a minor or a serious accident, and whether or not there is damage to property or person, there are certain things that you should keep in mind if you are involved in a highway accident:

  • Stop at the scene of the accident. Safety is always the first concern - pull over carefully when there is a space in the traffic - do not put any other drivers at risk. You are legally required to stop at the scene of a motor vehicle accident if someone's been injured, there's damage to someone's vehicle or property, an animal has been injured or killed or a fixed object has been damaged
  • Traffic management. If the scene needs to be cleared or marked, or if traffic management may be required, contact the police. Together with the highway authority and emergency services, the police may investigate the scene of the accident and act accordingly
  • Exchange details. When someone involved in an accident asks for your contact details you are legally required to hand them over, and vice versa. You should obtain the name, address, telephone number, registration number and insurance details of any other driver(s) involved
  • Inform the police. You must notify the police if someone has been injured, if one of the drivers is unable to produce an insurance certificate at the scene of the accident or if you are unable to swap details with the other driver at the scene of the accident
  • Take notes of details of the accident. This should include car makes, models and registration numbers, the time and date of the accident, the weather conditions, estimated speeds of the vehicles, the number of passengers in the vehicles, witness details and details of damage done to the vehicles or persons. It may be useful to draw diagrams and take photographs

The next steps

If there was any damage to property or personal injury you may wish to get in touch with a solicitor to discuss seeking compensation. If your property damage or injury was at least partly because of another driver's negligent driving, you may be able to claim compensation.

If other road or environmental factors contributed to the accident, such as poorly maintained roads or unmarked hazards, you may have a claim against the highway authority.

Therefore, if you have suffered a personal injury on a highway which was not your fault, you could be entitled to compensation, and legal advice should be taken as to who you should pursue in your claim.

For information on how a solicitor can help, visit our useful page on using an accident lawyer.

Have you been involved in an accident on a public highway? Contact Law can put you in touch with an expert personal injury lawyer to help you bring a claim against the Highway Authority, if you sustained an injury. Please call us on 0800 1777 162 or complete the web-form above.

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