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The Accident Claimline Blog

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Roadside vegetation affecting road traffic accident claims – councils and government not liable

Following a road traffic accident where a cyclist was knocked off his bike and injured near Ruthin in North Wales, a recent decision by the Court of Appeal means that local or central government should not have a duty of care to prevent roadside vegetation from obstructing the visibility of road users.

In the case in question, Sumner v Colborne and others [2018], the Court heard that Roy Sumner was cycling along the A494 when he was struck by a car that was emerging from a minor side road. The car driver, Michael Colborne, denied both liability and any potential contributory negligence, as his visibility whilst emerging from the side road was “severely restricted” by vegetation on land next to the road. The area on which the vegetation was growing is owned by the Welsh government, with Denbighshire County Council being responsible for the minor road. His Honour Judge Pearce had originally struck out the driver Mr Colborne’s negligence claim against Denbighshire County Council and the Welsh government.

In the subsequent appeal, Sir Stephen Richards said:

“The existence or otherwise of a duty of care in circumstances of the kind that arise in the present case has not been established by previous decision” and “the factors militating against the existence of a duty of care are in my view very powerful”. He said it was of particular note that the claim had been brought solely by the insured defendant (the car driver), and not the claimant (the cyclist).

Sir Stephen continued:

“One may add that if a duty of care were found to exist in the present case, it would be liable to encourage a marked growth in claims by drivers’ insurers for contributions from owners of land adjacent to the highway in cases where visibility was an issue (and such owners would not necessarily have public liability insurance) and a marked growth in the business of providing expert advice to landowners on the implications of vegetation and structures on their land for visibility on the adjoining road network…these are potentially serious and costly consequences for very little practical gain”

If you've been injured in a road accident and it wasn't your fault, see if you can claim - to find out more, contact one of our friendly team for further advice on 0800 977 4852 or via email here.

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