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Motorcycles and Missing Manhole Covers

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Can I claim Compensation for a missing manhole cover that caused my accident?   Damn right you can!  

Okay my fellow bikers, now listen up here whilst we once again tackle the duties of care owed by local authorities.  Here we discuss what you can do if you are injured because of missing manhole covers in the roadway. Our motorcycle solicitors have dealt with these issues for many years and are well versed in dealing with these hazards and the difficulties you may encounter when negotiating with obstinate local authorities whose duty it is to make sure it doesn’t happen.  


The Highways Act of 1980 relates to all roads, pathways, cycle ways and carriageways. For the purposes of this website we intend only to refer to roads that are maintainable at public expense or if you prefer, the roads that they are supposed to maintain from the vast amount of Council Taxes that they seem to waste every year.  So, the word ‘maintain’ conjures up images of wet tar, road rollers and council workmen staring into holes and sipping tea. But maintenance goes further than this. To maintain a road means that the road and its surface must be safe for its intended use. The problem today is that there is no other place to ride your motorbike when going from A to B unless you spend virtually all of the time on a public road. They are everywhere and we have little choice as motorcyclists other than to use them.  

So, if we are literally forced to use them, the person responsible for them must ensure that you don’t get injured, right?  Great theories, but theory is where it all ends. The sad and stark fact is that people are injured every day on the roads, not just from other motorists, but from the state of the roads that have caused the bike accident.  

Motorcycles and scooters are probably the most dangerous machines on the roads today (some may say). Cars can skid, and to a certain extent we can control them. There are rules of ‘turning into skids’ and ‘braking intermittently on snow and ice’ to name just a couple.  But us bikers have a different strategy. First they hope that the Council have done their job properly, and secondly if they haven’t, they need to know some good prayers, because that’s all they usually have between themselves and the road surface.  But with the problem of the missing manhole cover, the problem is multiplied by its very nature. The moment the front wheel of a motorbike goes down a manhole, the effect is usually that the motorcycle comes to an immediate halt, throwing the rider and pillion forward and onto the road, usually followed by the motorcycle being cart wheeled onto them or anyone else standing by at the time.  

The missing manhole cover is potentially more dangerous than any pothole or slippery surface; it can be deadly and sometimes is. It is probably too late to re-site them now, but in the past you would have thought that whoever put them in roadways wasn’t thinking straight. You are probably right, but then again we are talking about some Council planners who can’t plan their way out of a paper bag.   It is hard to believe that nobody had ever said to them, “What if someone takes the cover off? What will happen?”  

With the soaring cost of metal these days, they have become an easy target for people who are reckless enough to risk people’s lives for £2 worth of scrap metal.   Whatever you do, don’t ask why they don’t fit locks to them; it’s local Councils, remember?  

So in short, the local authority is under a duty of care to ensure that the roads are fit for purpose, and if they aren’t and you are injured, then that’s who you claim motorcycle compensation from.  


You should know better than ask that question; of course it’s not as simple as that, and that is why you need the help of our motorcycle solicitors. Nothing is ever as simple as that when dealing with this major hazard and the injuries associated with that hazard.  

Let’s say we are riding our motorcycle along the road when suddenly we ride straight into an open inspection hatch in the road. The Council will immediately blame the mystery third party who took the manhole cover. Like Insurance companies, Councils have endless lists of excuses.  “It’s not my fault.” They will protest. Sorry; but yes it is.   But despite their endless protestations, yes the council is at fault and ultimately responsible, but what if they maintain that they had checked the road earlier in the day and it was free from hazards?   They will be using that old excuse of ‘reasonability’ and a ‘reasonable regime of inspection’.  


The local authority will maintain they have a proper system of inspection. They may even show records of regular inspection of their system of roads. As an example, say a local authority has fifty miles of roads to inspect. If they only inspect it once every two weeks, because of the limited roads they have to look after, once every two weeks can hardly be deemed reasonable. But if an authority has ten thousand miles of roads to inspect, then once every two weeks may be accepted as being reasonable given the size of the task and of course the nature of the defects.  


The answer to this is, yes.  Section 58 of the Highways Act gives them a ‘get out’ if they can prove that they have taken ‘such care as in all the circumstances was required to secure that part of the highway to which the action relates was not dangerous to the traffic’. Therefore, a highway authority needs to take reasonable care of the road.  

Of course, they don’t have it all their own way and must argue their point to the satisfaction of the judge if they are to succeed. The Court must look at the following points when reaching a decision:  The nature of the road, i.e. is this a main highway (and therefore the traffic that is reasonably expected to use it)  The standard of maintenance appropriate for a road of that character and used by that traffic   The state of repair in which a reasonable person would have expected to find the highway. Whether the highway authority knew or could reasonably have been expected to know the condition of that part of the highway to which the action relates was likely to cause danger to users of the highway, i.e. have pot holes and oil spillages already been reported?  

Where the highways authority could not have reasonably been expected to repair that part of the highway before the accident occurred, what warning notices of its condition had been displayed.  


So as you can see, road accidents caused by missing grid covers and manhole covers can be fraught with danger. Say the wrong thing, at the wrong time to the wrong person and your case can be damaged beyond recovery.  If you find yourself the victim of a negligent council or authority, contact us. We understand, we have the experience and we are bikers; just like you.  

A phone call will cost you nothing.  

Talk to us, biker to biker on 0800 622 6517

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Motorcycle Compensation, Motorbike Accident Solicitors,

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