Potential liability for property owners adjacent to highways By Andrew Fairman

In the world of highways, claims and personal injury success often does not come easily. The special defence found in section 58 of the Highways Act 1980 coupled with the courts scepticism when applying liability to local authorities means that claimants can often come across difficulties when presenting their case.

However, at Hampson Hughes we have a particular penchant for these often difficult and complex cases, priding ourselves on ensuring we get to the bottom of each and every highways claim.

This often means delving deeper and further into the issues and involvements of not only local authorities but also additional parties whom one may not ordinarily expect to find holding liability. A common feature highways practitioners come across is to find a piece of land that a claimant has come to grief upon remains un-adopted by the local authority, un-registered following any subsequent land registry search and further still seemingly un-owned. On the surface this appears to leave a claimant in a position where there does not appear to be a Defendant in play, let alone a Defendant who owes a duty of care.

However, if this is looked into further it can be found that the basic presumption for adopted highways is that the owners of the adjacent land are presumed in law to own the subsoil of the highway across to central point of the highway. This is of course a rebuttable presumption and in cases where highways are adopted this can be rebutted by clear of acts of ownership by another party. However, whilst this is the case for highways which have been adopted a practitioner can often be found not knowing who a defendant may be for an un-adopted or un-registered location. Yet, for private occupation roads the matter has been considered and under Holmes v Bellingham (1859) it was pointed out that the very same presumption would apply and this remains good law today having considered itself in more recent cases.

This is a little used aspect of highways cases but is an aspect that is well worth considering. Should a location be found to be un-adopted, un-registered and un-owned then all is not lost. The owners of land adjoin a private road that would fit the above circumstances may prove to be a defendant against which a successful claim can be pursued and this certainly opens additional avenues in pursuing highways claims that may often not be considered.

Whilst this is of course not something that would be useful to every case and is certainly for unique situations is serves to show that with extra effort and by ensuring every option is explored a case type which is often considered to be challenging and demanding can prove to be very rewarding.

If you have been injured in an accident in a public case then please contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors and we will be happy to provide you with advice. We will be happy to seek to pursue a claim on your behalf and we at Hampson Hughes will ensure we do everything we possibly can to ensure you receive the maximum compensation you deserve. For advice on all areas of Personal Injury, call Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888.