I act for a number of clients who suffer personal injuries after tripping due to defects on the footpath and road. A local council will usually have a duty to inspect and maintain footpaths and roads falling within their local authority.
There is a misconception amongst many clients that tripping on a defect automatically means a council is legally liable for injuries. A council will not be legally liable to pay compensation for injuries if they can prove that they carried out regular inspections and that the defect was not present at the time of their last inspection or posed a risk. A council will in most circumstances not be liable for defects which are less than 20mm in depth.
Defects can vary by their very nature and can range from large potholes to uneven paving slabs.
Tripping cases are difficult to win, so having the right evidence is crucial. Without adequate photographic evidence, a case which could have a reasonable chance of succeeding, could unfortunately be doomed to fail.
In order to stand a chance of winning cases such as these, it is vital that photographic evidence is obtained as soon as possible after the accident to ensure we can prove a local authority is legally liable. Photographs taken a few weeks after the accident may not be sufficient to prove your case as the defect can change in a short space of time.
I have set out some guidance points below to ensure a highways tripping case has the best chance of succeeding: –
- Photographs showing the location of the defect: It is important not only to take close up photos of the defect but also of the defect in its nearby surroundings such as recognisable buildings. It is vital to identify the closest landmarks in the form of local shops or the closest residential address to the defect. This will assist the council with their investigations and also help a solicitor to ascertain if the defect existed before the accident.
- Clear close up photos of the defect. These photos must have a measurement of the defect to prove the defect is at least 1 inch in depth. Ideally a ruler or measuring tape should be used from the base of the defect. A vertical measurement should be taken at the exact point where the fall occurred. If you do not have a ruler to hand, a 50 pence coin or a standard object against the defect will help to show the defect is at least 1 inch in depth.
- Video evidence of any defects which are unstable. For example, a video clip of an unstable paving slab can reveal the true risk a defect poses. Certain defects will be difficult to measure and videos may assist to illustrate the dimensions and depth of a defect.
- A note of nearby addresses including houses, shops and businesses to enable your solicitor to contact people who live or work there to ascertain how long the defect had been present before the accident. If the area or road in question is in a state of disrepair with a number of defects it may be useful to take photos of these defects to advance an argument that the system of inspection and repair carried out by the council is inadequate.
Unfortunately, tripping incidents outdoors can cause severe injuries including serious fractures requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation. These cases can be notoriously difficult to win and therefore it is important to ensure that the perfect photos of the imperfect defect are taken. Without evidence, you cannot prove the council was negligent and you may lose the chance of brining a successful claim.