Most people probably do not realise that a highway authority’s responsibility for keeping the roads safe to use is very limited. In practical terms, so many things can happen to a road that it would be unreasonable for the authority to be responsible for maintaining all roads within its remit in a safe condition at all times.
One of the situations that specifically lies outside the responsibility of a highway authority is when a road is made unsafe by something that drops onto it – an occurrence that happens dozens of times daily.
However, a recent case shows that this limitation is subject to boundaries. It involved a cyclist who suffered a severe head injury when he struck a lump of concrete in the road. The concrete had fallen onto the road and hardened.
The relevant highway authority claimed that it was not responsible because the concrete was a contaminant. The claimant argued that once the concrete had set and bonded itself to the road, it became the authority’s responsibility to remove it and make the road safe.
The court accepted that the authority was responsible for the road being unsafe in this case.