The county council has been forced to pay nearly £70,000 in compensation to a cyclist who was catastrophically injured after swerving to avoid a pothole.

Alan Curtis, a charity fundraiser, sustained skull fractures and a broken arm after hurtling over the handlebars of his bike in The Drive, Rickmansworth, in October 2009, London's High Court heard yesterday.

He has no memory of the accident, was left with long-term hearing problems and mild brain damage and has problems "processing information".
The 57-year-old had to leave his £90,000 a year job where he had run a successful team following the fall, and switch to a "less stressful" job, Judge David Pittaway QC told the court, .

The judge found Hertfordshire County Council in breach of its duty to inspect and maintain highways n its area, awarding Mr Curtis compensation totalling £69,425, including interest.

Mr Curtis, of Chiltern Avenue, Bushey, was with a group of friends training for a charity bike ride when he came to grief, said the judge.

A regular cyclist, Mr Curtis would cover 50 miles on a trip, and was described as a "careful and sensible cyclist".

He was travelling at up to 20mph when he approached the pothole and probably lost control when he swerved to avoid it.

Dismissing claims that Mr Curtis should have noticed the defect in the road, the judge said he would have had no time to avoid the hazard and cleared him of all responsibility for the accident.

The council had inspected the road in March 2009 - seven months before the crash - but did not take steps to repair it.

His cycling companions told how Mr Curtis disappeared from view ahead of them as he went downhill towards the accident scene, and were suddenly confronting the spectacle of his battered body on the road.

He was rushed to hospital by paramedics where he received emergency surgery for his injuries.

Judge Pittaway said the precise cause of the accident remained unclear, although Mr Curtis' friends had gone back to take exhaustive photos of the scene.

He may have come off his bike when his front wheel ploughed into the pothole, said the judge. However, the more likely cause was him "swerving and losing control" when he spotted the hole.

Mr Curtis "never cycled faster than he should", said the judge.

Andrew Dawson at Hertfordshire County Council, said: "Mr Curtis’s accident is regrettable.

"However, Hertfordshire County Council is disappointed with the outcome of today’s judgement."