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Potholes aren’t just nuisances; they pose real dangers, especially when they lead to injuries and damage to vehicles. In Scotland, understanding the legal responsibilities of councils regarding pothole-related injuries is crucial. Let’s explore what these responsibilities entail and how they play a vital role in ensuring the safety of pedestrians and road users.

Duty of Care

Councils in Scotland have a duty of care to maintain adopted public roads. This includes regularly inspecting roads, identifying hazards such as potholes, and promptly repairing them. Failure to fulfil this duty can lead to legal repercussions if injuries and losses occur due to neglected potholes.Image showing pothole on the road

Negligence and Liability

If a pothole-related injury or loss occurs, and it can be proven that the defect was an actionable defect, which the council was aware of but did not take appropriate action to repair, the council can be held liable for negligence. Victims have the right to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the injury.

Proving Council’s Negligence

To establish a council’s negligence, it must be demonstrated that the council knew or ought to have know about the pothole and had sufficient time to repair it but failed to do so. This might involve gathering evidence such as records of previous complaints, maintenance schedules, and eyewitness accounts.

Prompt Repairs and Warning Signs

Councils are expected to repair potholes promptly once identified if they pose risk. If immediate repair isn’t possible, councils should put up warning signs to alert drivers and pedestrians. Failing to provide warnings can also be considered negligence if an injury occurs.

Public Reporting and Council Response

Councils encourage the public to report potholes. When a pothole is reported, the council is legally obligated to investigate and repair it, if necessary, within a reasonable timeframe. If they fail to do so, their legal responsibility deepens.

Contributory Negligence

In some cases, if the injured party was partly responsible for the accident, their compensation might be reduced based on the principle of contributory negligence. However, this does not absolve the council of its responsibility for maintaining safe roads.


In Scotland, councils bear a significant legal responsibility for injuries and losses caused by potholes.. It’s essential for both councils and members of the public to be aware of these legal obligations, fostering a culture of road safety and accountability that benefits everyone on Scotland's roads. So when you come across a pothole don’t just avoid it or moan about it, report it  to the council and hopefully they will comply with their duties and make the roads safer for everyone . 

Blog by Hannah Bennett, Partner

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