Injuries caused by pavement trips and falls are unfortunately an all too common occurrence. The number of potholes and damaged pavements seems to get worse year after year. And with financial cutbacks to council budgets and bad weather in the winter months, this inevitably leads to more damage and delays in repair times. Although local authorities do try to monitor and repair such defects, raised paving slabs, uneven pavements, potholes and damaged kerbs continue to pose a significant risk of personal injury to the public.
If you have tripped on a pavement due to it being uneven, whether this is a raised paving slab, a pot hole or any other defect, and you have suffered a personal injury due to this accident, you may be entitled to make a pavement accident claim and receive compensation for your injuries.
We specialise in personal injury claims for council negligence, so our no win no fee injury lawyers can help to build a successful case against the council at fault for your accident.
To have your case assessed by an experienced injury solicitor, enter your details into the contact form above. We will call you back for a free consultation and discuss your options. You can find out within minutes if you can make a claim, have all of your questions answers, and you are under absolutely no obligation to proceed.
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Responsibility to maintain safe pavements
Local authorities are responsible for maintaining all public roads, pavements and walkways within their boundaries. These should be kept in a safe condition and free from obstructions that could cause harm to members of the public. This obligation is legislated under the Highways Act 1980.
Of course, it is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect a pavement to be completely flat and free of all defects. Over time, due to weather conditions, tree roots and general wear and tear, they will naturally become uneven. It is how the local council responsible for the area deal with these pavement defects that is important.
All highway authorities must have a system in place to perform regular inspections on roads, footpaths and pavements. How frequently these checks should be carried out will usually depend on how busy the area is. A road or pavement that experiences high volumes of traffic such as those in town centres and outside schools and hospitals will need to be inspected more often than quieter areas.
When defects are found through inspections or from public complaints, the local authority has a duty to repair the defect within a reasonable timeframe. What is deemed reasonable will again depend on the area, with busier roads and walkways requiring more urgency than quiet country roads. The size of the defect and potential danger is another factor that should be taking into consideration when assessing the pavement.
If the council are aware of a pavement hazard and fail to repair it in a reasonable time, and this causes you to suffer an injury, your claim for compensation is more likely to succeed.
Criteria to make a pavement accident claim
Tripping on a raised paving slab or a pothole does not automatically entitle you to claim compensation. There are a number of criteria that must be satisfied to make a person eligible to make a successful personal injury claim against the council for negligence.
The pavement defect must be at least 1inch (2.5cm)
When making a compensation claim against the council for a slip or trip, the defect that has caused the accident must be at least 1inch. For example, if you have tripped due to a raised paving slab, it must be at least 1inch above the normal level. If you have tripped due to a pothole, the pothole must be at least 1 inch deep.
Although a defect which is less than 1inch can cause accidents which result in significant injuries, it is very unlikely you would be able to make a successful accident claim. Cases have been considered by judges but have been unsuccessful, with one judge stating that a highway “is not to be judged by the standards of a bowling green”.
The accident must be within the time limit
The trip that caused your injuries must have happened within the past three years to be eligible to seek compensation. If you were under the age of 18 when the accident occurred, the three year period starts on the date you turned 18 years old. If the three year limitation period has passed, it is unlikely that you would be able to proceed with your claim.
You must have suffered an injury
To make a negligence claim for a trip on a council pavement, naturally you must have suffered a personal injury. If you have not been injured, you would not be entitled to compensation. You cannot claim for a ‘near miss’ or for what ‘could have happened’.
A personal injury solicitor will discuss the injuries you have sustained before deciding whether or not they can take your case on a no win no fee basis. If your injury is minor and completely better within a week, the claim is less likely to be taken on by an injury lawyer as the level of potential compensation would be too low.
You must have received medical attention
If you have been injured due to a trip on a raised pavement, a pothole or any other obstruction, you must seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. It is important that they are recorded on your medical records as evidence that you have suffered an injury as a result of the accident. Having your injuries looked at by a relative or a neighbour who happens to be a nurse would not be sufficient.
Record as much evidence as possible to support your claim
As with any compensation claim, it is a good idea to record as much evidence as possible. You should take photographs of the defect as soon as possible. When taking photos of the pavement, it is a good idea to put something in or against the defect to help demonstrate the size. A ruler or tape measure would be ideal for this, but you could also use a coin, a match box or any other item which gives an indication of the size of the damaged area. You should take several photos from different angles to make sure the defect on the pavement is clearly visible in the photographs.
Here are some good examples of photos that show damaged pavements clearly, and would be considered as good evidence in any subsequent personal injury claim. As mentioned above, these photographs could be made even better by including a ruler or identifiable object against the raised slab to help demonstrate the size.
As well as photographic evidence, you should also make a note of any other evidence. For example, if there were any witnesses you should ask if you can take down their names and contact details. You could also write a letter to your local authority to report your accident and keep a copy of your letter. If you do report the incident, it is a good idea to take photographic evidence of the defect first. Otherwise, the pavement might get repaired before you have time to gather evidence to support your accident claim.
Was your accident caught on CCTV? If there is a CCTV camera pointing in the vicinity of where you tripped over, the footage from this can be an excellent source of evidence. Under the Data Protection Act, you have a legal right to request a copy of this footage. Find out more on how to request CCTV evidence of your accident here.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are contemplating making a claim following an accident on a pavement or any other public place, it is natural that you will have some questions. These can all be addressed by a solicitor during your free claim assessment, but here are some of the most common questions we receive:
Could the council have a defence to my pavement accident?
The simple answer to this is yes. Under section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, the council may have a defence to a pavement accident claim if they can prove they have a good system in place to inspect the highway where the accident occurred, and that they have carried out these inspections on a regular basis. A personal injury lawyer would look to challenge this defence on grounds that the system put in place by the local authority is either inadequate or has not been properly enforced.
I was unable to work due to my accident. Can I claim for loss of earnings?
Yes, you can claim for loss of wages if your case is successful. To do this, you will need to provide evidence to support your losses, usually in the form of payslips. If you suffer significant injuries that impact your ability to work long term, your claim for compensation may also include an award for future loss of earnings.
Can I claim on behalf of my child?
If you are the parent or guardian of a child (under 18 years of age) that is injured due to a trip on a damaged pavement, you can initiate a personal injury claim on their behalf. In these instances, you are referred to as a 'litigation friend', whose role it is to represent the best interests of the child.
How much compensation will I receive?
This depends on the injury or injuries you have suffered, how they impact your day to day life, and any financial losses caused by the accident. Our compensation calculator can give you a rough guide based on different types of injuries, but it is important to remember that how much you receive for a successful claim will depend on your particular circumstances. To get a more accurate idea, speak to one of our friendly solicitors who will be happy to assess your case during a free consultation.
Can I claim on a No Win No Fee basis?
Absolutely. Our injury lawyers will provide you with a no win no fee service. This is a great option as it means you can make a claim without putting yourself at any financial risk. There are no upfront fees or unexpected costs along the way. Before taking on your case, your local injury solicitor will agree with you a fee for making a successful claim. If you don't win, you aren't charged a penny.
Nobody witnessed my accident. Can I still make a claim?
Having a person, ideally independent, who witnessed your pavement accident and can back up your version of events is going to make your case for compensation stronger. Having said that, witnesses are not an essential requirement. So if you have been injured in an accident that wasn't your fault and there weren't any witnesses, or you failed to collect their contact details, you still have the possibility of making a successful claim against the highway authority responsible for the damaged pavement.