Work Related Road Accidents

Keeping the roads safe – an employer’s responsibility?

Having an accident at work often means a long process of claiming against your employer for any resulting injuries or time off work. But who’s responsible if you have an accident in your works car park, or if road conditions around a building site make a stretch of road treacherous?

The Law

Although the highways and byways of the UK fall under the control of local councils and the Highways Agency, there are provisos in the Highway Code making it the responsibility of all road users to ensure that the roads are safe to use. Tractors, for example, are technically required to ensure that their tyres are not going to deposit dangerous amounts of mud or debris on the road when exiting fields, and the same applies for vehicles exiting building and construction sites. Yet motorists are often faced with an expanse of muddy, slippery road surface near the entrances to sites or farm entrances, which can cause accidents. Whilst it may be dictated in law that construction companies, for example, have a responsibility to ensure that the public highways around their sites are kept clear of detritus and mud, the only statutory punishment available is a fine – not much of an incentive for less than careful companies to comply.

If road conditions around a building site can be directly associated with a road traffic accident, then the injured parties do have a chance to claim recompense, particularly if warning signs are inadequate or even non-existent. In the same way that motorists can hold a council to account financially if they are injured or their vehicle is damaged as a result of poor road conditions, so the public has a right to hold companies responsible if their operations have made the road unsafe.

What To Do

If you suspect that an accident is the direct result of poor vehicle maintenance (in that the vehicles leaving a construction site have deposited large amounts of mud and detritus on the road), then you may be able to bring a claim for compensation against the company responsible for the site. The first thing to do is to make sure you have evidence of the conditions of the site entrance and the road surface surrounding it.

Most people these days have some form of camera on them, whether that’s on your mobile phone or a small pocket camera. Make sure you take pictures of the scene, paying particular attention to the condition of the road surface itself. This can be important evidence in the event of a compensation or injury claim at a later date. Check to see what actions the company has taken to warn drivers of the conditions and if signage is adequate. At a later stage, it may also be worth contacting your local council or the Highways Agency to find out if any other complaints have been made, as this could count as evidence against the site operator.

If you are a site operator, then it is in your interests to ensure that your site entrances, the surrounding public roads and even your car parking area is maintained to a standard that could prevent it contributing to the cause of an accident, and that heavy vehicles have their tyres cleaned before exiting the site. Not only could it prevent a serious accident and subsequent compensation claims against you, but it could also stop you from being fined under the Road Traffic Act legislation.

Mud on the road is a common site, both in urban and particularly in rural settings, but it is a preventable situation and one that needs to be taken seriously by everyone involved.

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