What Defences Could Be Raised To My Tripping Claim?
At this time of year, with the cold weather and long, dark evenings people need to take extra care when they are out to avoid tripping or slipping.
Councils have a duty to make sure that the highways (both public roads and footpaths) are properly maintained and free from any hazards. This includes making sure that potholes and other defects are repaired promptly as well as having a system in place to ensure that the roads are gritted and safe to use in cold weather.
Keeping the highways safe
However, the Courts do acknowledge that this is a high burden to place on Councils and it is not possible for every road and footpath in the area to be kept completely free from defects all the time. Therefore, when Courts are ruling on personal injury claims arising out of tripping or slipping accidents, it has to decide on whether or not the Council has done everything reasonably possible to keep the highway safe for those using it.
An example of this would be that if cold weather came in unexpectedly and was not forecasted. If the Council had not gritted the road and someone were to then slip on ice, a Court would have to decide whether it was reasonable to expect the Council to have gritted in these circumstances.
The Inspection Defence
Councils are expected to have reasonable system of inspection and repair in place. The Courts acknowledge that it is not reasonable or practical for a Council to be able to inspect all of the roads and footpaths in the area every single day and do not expect them to do so. In order to succeed in defending a tripping claim, a Council needs to be able to prove that they have a reasonable system in place for inspecting and maintaining the highway. This includes carrying out regular routine inspections and also taking remedial action promptly to repair any defect that poses a danger to the public.
Many Councils have sections on their websites to allow members of the public to report defects and dangers on the highway; if a defect was reported through this system, the Council is expected to act quickly to inspect the area and if necessary, make repairs. If they fail to do so, and someone were then to have an accident, they could be held liable.
The Courts also have ruled that a Council is not liable for a tripping accident where the defect is less than an inch.
What should I do if I have been involved in an accident on the highway?
Whether or not a system of inspection and repair is reasonable can only be decided on the facts of a case. It is crucial that if you are involved in a slipping or tripping accident on the highway that you stay calm. Get the details of any witnesses who may be able to confirm your version of events and if you have tripped on a pothole or another type of defect, make sure you take pictures and measurements as soon as possible.
If you are familiar with the area and know people who live nearby, speak to them and see if they know how long the defect has been there or if they have reported the defect to the Council before or if they know of anyone else who has. They may be able to give a witness statement to support a potential claim.
Make sure that you seek medical attention urgently if you have been injured and report the incident to the Local Authority; you should give a clear account of what happened and check to see that it is recorded accurately.
If you believe that you may be able to make a claim for compensation as a result of an accident, make sure you seek prompt legal advice from a specialist personal injury lawyer. To speak to one of our experts on slips & trips claims call 0808 252 5231 or request a call back.