Accident in a public place
As you may have fallen or tripped due to a worn, uneven, damaged pavement, pathway or public road you could be entitled to claim compensation. At Harris Fowler we specialise in getting you the compensation you deserve. This page will set out the elements of a claim we will need to prove and some hints and tips to help your claim go smoothly.
Under the Highways Act 1980 Local Authorities have a duty to maintain public pavements, pathways and roads. If you have tripped on private property please see our section marked Occupiers liability here.
To make a claim against a Local Authority for their failure to maintain the area where you tripped or fell you have to prove four things
- That the area where you tripped constitutes a public pavement, pathway or road
- That the highway was in such a condition as to that it could reasonably be expected to be dangerous to pedestrians or traffic
- That the dangerous condition was created as a result of the local authority’s failure to maintain the area.
- That your injury or loss resulted from the failure to maintain the public highway
The First Part – Public highway
For the most part this is the easiest part of a claim to establish as it will quite often be clear whether the road or pavement is for public use, for example, your local high street or for private use e.g. the courtyard of your local restaurant.
The Second Part – That the highway was dangerous
The second part of a claim is to show that the pavement, pathway or public road was in such a condition it would be reasonable to expect it to be dangerous.
As to whether the pavement, pathway or road could reasonably be considered dangerous will depend firstly upon the size of the defect and then on its location. A large pothole 30cm wide and 10cm deep in the middle of Oxford Street is something the courts would likely find could injure someone and therefore be considered dangerous. However a small pothole 2cm across and 1cm deep in the middle lane of the M5 is unlikely to be considered dangerous.
As this element of a claim is often quite fact dependent your highly qualified and experienced lawyer will advise you further on this and whether the defect that injured you is likely to be considered dangerous.
The Third Part –Dangerous as a result of failure to maintain
The Local Authority is not expected to provide an entirely flat surface free of defects as this would likely be unachievable. The Local Authorities duty is thus to maintain public pavements, pathways and roads and the law imposes responsibility to compensate those injured as a result of their failure to do so.
In order to show that a Local Authority has not maintained the area of pavement, pathway or road that injured you, you will need to show either that :-
- The Local Authority had knowledge of the danger and failed to take appropriate action in a reasonable period of time.
- The Local Authority is not inspecting and repairing defects in the area which caused you an injury.
It is difficult for you to know whether the Local Authority have knowledge of the danger unless you report it to them. In which case they can promptly repair the defect and if they did not have a report of the danger, it is likely they will be able to avoid compensating you for your injuries.
As such in order to prove that the area is not being inspected and dangers not being remedied, we advise taking pictures of the danger every 3 months over a 12 month period with pictures showing the measurements of the danger with a ruler or tape measure inserted to show the width and depth, along with pictures showing where the danger is in respect of local buildings, junctions or other landmarks.
The Fourth Part – That failure to maintain caused loss
The fourth and final part of bringing a claim is demonstrating that injury and losses are due to the danger and the Local Authority’s failure to maintain the pavement, pathway or road.
With personal injury this would seem straight forward, you trip on a large hole in the ground falling over and hurting your arm, it would seem obvious that the accident is the cause of your injured arm. But this becomes more complicated when before the accident you already had a previous arm injury or had underlying problems which you may not have even known about. Because of these complexities the court relies upon the opinion of independent medical experts as to what caused the injuries and how long they are likely to last.
If you have been injured in an accident it is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible to ensure you are getting the appropriate treatment for your injuries. In addition, as the medical expert will likely have sight of your records of attendance they will act as evidence as to the nature and extent of your symptoms and will help support your claim.
Because the court will rely upon the opinion of the medical expert it is important that the expert is aware of any previous health issues or accidents. In addition, as the expert will need to comment on whether any financial losses such as treatment received or time off work is due to the accident, it is important that you also discuss these with the medical expert.
Once the medical expert has provided their opinion as to whether the loss (time off work/treatment etc.) is as a result of the accident we will then need to collect evidence to calculate what each type of loss may be and your highly qualified and experienced lawyer will advise what is needed in respect of each head of loss you are looking to claim.
The important thing to remember however is to keep receipts for any expenses you incur as it will help us prove the loss and recover the compensation in respect of that loss.
As this is a difficult area of law please do contact us on our FREEPHONE number 0800 213 214 or fill out the claim form to discuss how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.
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