Biker who suffered life-changing injuries when he hit pothole sues council

Darren Crooks in hospital being treated for an accident he claims was caused by a pothole. (SWNS)
Darren Crooks in hospital being treated for an accident he claims was caused by a pothole. (SWNS)

A dad-of-three who suffered life-changing injuries when his motorcycle hit a pothole is taking the council to court.

Darren Crooks, 37, was riding home on the A260 in Kent when he was sent flying off his bike and crashed through metal barriers at the roadside. He needed almost 10 hours of surgery following a "significant" loss of blood, a fractured right femur, broken bones in his other leg and foot, as well as ruptured ligaments in his knee.

Mr Crooks, of Wingham, near Canterbury, said: “It was horrific. I was waiting on the roadside for almost an hour-and-a-half before the ambulance arrived. If it hadn’t been for the help of an off-duty paramedic who just happened to be passing by, it could have ended very differently - I lost a lot of blood.”

The suspension on his bike, a Suzuki Gsxr750, was also completely snapped.

Kent County Council (KCC), whose remit includes repairing and maintaining roads, is denying any liability for the crash on 16 April, according to Crooks' solicitor. Police closed the road, and in the hours after KCC carried out an emergency repair of the pothole.

The pothole which Darren Crooks claims caused his motorbike accident. (Google/SWNS)
The pothole in Kent which Darren Crooks claims caused his motorbike accident. (Google/SWNS) (Google Street View / SWNS)

The lawyer said the council could escape culpability if it could show it had a good system of inspection, maintenance and repair of the road, if the pothole was not there at its last inspection, and if it had not received complaints.

It is understood this is the case KCC has argued, having last inspected the road the month before, but the authority said it does not comment on individual cases. For a successful claim to be made the pothole would also need to have been 50mm deep, but the solicitor said no measurements of the pothole were taken before it was repaired.

Following the crash, Crooks underwent nine-and-a-half hours of surgery at Kings College Hospital in south London, followed by four months of at-home recovery and physiotherapy. Crooks said: “Today, walking is still excruciating and my physiotherapist said that even though, with time, I will get more movement back, there will be things now that I simply won’t be able to do. It’s like I’ve aged 60 years."

He said he recently visited the accident site and saw that the pothole he claimed almost cost him his life had opened up again.

What the council says

A KCC spokesperson said: “Our priority is always to ensure the safety of everyone that uses our roads and we wish the motorcyclist well in his recovery. We last inspected the A260 in March 2023 and attended the site alongside Kent Police when the incident occurred, where clear photographs were taken identifying a small defect in the road.

“While we are not able to comment on individual claims, we recognise the responsibility we have to make sure our roads are safe to use and keep Kent moving.

"That is why we are spending millions this financial year to repair potholes and other safety-critical defects on one of the largest road networks of any local authority in England. Anyone who sees a pothole on our road can report it directly to us on our website using our highway fault reporting tool.”

Kent had the highest number of pothole-related deaths between 2018 and 2022 in the UK, with faults in roads having caused 15 deaths or serious injuries.

Darren Crooks x-ray from the hospital. (SWNS)
Darren Crooks x-ray from the hospital. (SWNS) (Darren Crooks / SWNS)

What causes potholes and how many are there in the UK?

A pothole is a depression in a road surface caused by wear or sinking. They start out as tiny cracks in the surface but can grow if not fixed.

Potholes are caused by a combination of factors, including heavy traffic, weather changes, and poor road maintenance. When water seeps into cracks in the road, it can freeze and expand, causing the asphalt to crack and break apart. Over time, this can lead to the formation of potholes.

Heavy road use and traffic on the UK's roads are also factors. Councils also have tight budgets to fix potholes. The RAC estimated there were at least one million potholes on UK roads and that number would vary depending on what season it was. The UK is more susceptible to potholes because of its climate.

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