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Slips, Trips and Falls In Winter

Slip, trip and falling over while out and about are common types of personal injury claims we handle. Now that the days are getting shorter, colder and icier the risk of slipping, tripping or falling increases and can make these sort of accidents more serious when they do happen.

Fortunately, most of these accidents only result in minor injuries. However, some can result in more serious injuries and have serious consequences including broken bones, concussion, deep lacerations and permanent scarring.

Wet weather is a serious hazard. This mean you are more at risk in public places such as car parks, designated foot paths, parks and town centres where water may build up. Windy weather also possess a threat as it can affect your balance and cause a fall. Ice and snow are especially dangerous as you are prone to slipping.

To ensure safety during these winter months we have given the following tips:

  1. To wear appropriate shoes, with low heels, slip-resistant soles and shoes with good grip.
  2. To make sure you walk slowly and deliberately.
  3. Look out for slippery floors when entering a public building or shop.
  4. Be careful when getting in and out of vehicles.
  5. Try and avoid poorly lit areas. It will be difficult to spot hazards such as black ice.

A local council will usually have a duty to inspect and maintain footpaths and roads falling within their local authority. Many claimants mistakenly believe that any fall that leads to an injury would be enough to form a successful claim. The reality however is very different, and to succeed there are two ‘hurdles’ that must be met.

The ‘first hurdle’ – the defect itself

There are several possible causes of a pavement trip fall such as:

  1. Raised paving slabs;
  2. Potholes;
  3. Exposed tree roots;
  4. Damaged or cracked paving slabs; and
  5. Uneven stones;
  6. Slippery surfaces;
  7. Inadequate lighting during the winter months

The defect itself has to measure more than 25mm or 1 inch above the normal pavement level. The council will not be held liable in circumstances where the defect is less than the specified amount.

In winter, the council will have a responsibility to keep public areas as safe as possible. Such as to clear water or snow, spreading sand or salt on icy paths and to have adequate lighting.

If the Council have not provided enough lighting for you to see properly, they could be held accountable for any accidents that happen as a result.

Photographic Evidence

To show the defect is above 25mm you should take some photographs. Place a tape measure, ruler or coin next to the area where you tripped and send the photographs to your solicitor. The pictures should be clear and up close.

The photographs should be taken as soon as possible following the accident. If it is not possible to take the photograph yourself, please ask a friend or family member to do so. A photograph taken a couple of months after may not be helpful to your case as the defect can change significantly over time.

You should take some pictures of the surrounding area as well. It is important to show the local shops or houses within the photograph. This will assist the council with their investigations and also allow your solicitor to contact witnesses to determine how long the defect was present prior to the accident.

The ‘second hurdle’ – inspection records.

The council will not be found at fault if they can prove they carried out regular inspections. Depending on how busy the area is the inspections could take place monthly (for high streets) or annually (for residential areas).

The council usually provide us with a copy of their inspection records for that particular area over the last 12 months. If the records show they did not have an adequate inspection in place then we would be able to bring a successful claim against them.

However, the council will not be held liable if they can show that they had an adequate system of inspection and during their last inspection the defect was either (1) not present or (2) did not pose a risk to pedestrians at the time.

Unfortunately, these sorts of cases are notoriously difficult to win. It is therefore crucial that you are able to provide your solicitor with cotemporaneous evidence at the beginning of your claim. Without sufficient photographic evidence, a case may not even pass the first hurdle.

If you have suffered an injury due to someone’s else negligence and wish to discuss your situation with our leading personal injury solicitors, please call us today on 0808 252 5231 or request a call back online.

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