Claiming compensation for pavement accidents
Slips, trips or falls on a pavement are always embarrassing, but although such mishaps often just leave you with minor injuries and hurt pride, they can sometimes cause serious injuries – such as fractures, sprains, or head, brain or spinal injuries.
Every local authority has a legal duty to ensure pavements and walkways are as safe as possible for people to use. If they fail in that duty – by failing to check and maintain them properly – and you are injured as a result, you have every right to claim compensation.
There is no official legal definition of what constitutes an unsafe pavement, but judging by past case law, a defect of more than an inch in height is generally regarded as being ‘unreasonable’.
What are common causes of pavement accidents?
You can get hurt by pavements in a variety of ways, some of the common causes of pavement trips, slips or falls include:
- uneven curbs or paving stones;
- untreated icy surfaces or spillages;
- badly placed signs or incorrectly replaced drain covers;
- damaged pavements caused by overgrown tree roots or vehicle crashes;
- badly maintained pavements;
- wrongly laid paving;
- obstacles, such as rubbish. on the walkway.
What do I need to prove to succeed in a pavement accident claim?
To be able to successfully make a pavement compensation claim you need to show that the person or body responsible for your injuries was negligent. This requires you to prove that they owed you a duty of care, that they breached that duty, and that you were injured as a result.
When assessing negligence, the court will consider whether the actions of the person or body responsible for your injures failed to meet the standard of what the ‘reasonable man’ or the ‘man on the Clapham omnibus’ would do in a similar situation.
Who do I sue?
If you hurt yourself on a public pavement, your case would be brought against the local authority which, under the Highways Act 1980, is responsible for making sure that public pavements are regularly checked to ensure they are safe to use and free from obstructions.
If your injuries were sustained on privately owned land, such as a supermarket pathway, your case would be brought against the owner of the land. Private property owners have a responsibility under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 to ensure their property is safe, and this includes making sure pathways are free from hazards.
What if the accident was partly my fault?
If you were partly to blame for your accident, or if your injuries were worsened through your own actions – for example, if you fell over because you were looking at your phone and not where you were going – you might still be able to make a claim as long someone else was at fault too. The amount of compensation you receive, however, may be lessened depending on how much the court feels your negligence contributed to your injuries.
What are time limits for bringing a claim?
Under the Limitation Act 1980, you usually have three years from the date of your accident or from when you comprehend the full extent of your injuries (whichever comes later) to make a compensation claim, although if the claimant is a child or is mentally incapacitated this ‘limitation period’ runs, respectively, from the date they turn 18 or when they regain mental capacity.
How do I bring my claim?
Unless your claim is particularly complicated or of very high value (more than £25,000), your personal injury solicitor will usually bring your claim through the Claims Portal using one of the pre-action protocols.
The Claims Portal is designed to ensure your claim is dealt with in a timely and cost-effective manner, while the pre-action protocol sets out the procedure you need to follow to bring your claim and the time limits involved. The protocols aim to ensure both parties exchange information at an early stage, encourage use of alternative dispute resolution to settle the claim, and assess whether you have needs that could be met by rehabilitation, treatment or other measures.
If you do not follow the pre-action protocol without a reasonable excuse, the court may order costs against you. Your solicitor can advise you of your options if your claim falls outside the protocol.
What evidence do I need to prove my case?
To strengthen your case, you should collect as much evidence at the scene and afterwards as possible. This includes:
- names and contact details of any potential witnesses;
- photographs of the accident scene and your injuries;
- any available CCTV footage of the accident;
- records of any medical treatment you had following the accident;
- a written account of your accident and how your injuries have affected you, mentally, physically and financially;
- details of any expenses which have arisen from your injury, and of those going forward, such as time you need to take off work to recover.
How can a solicitor help?
You’re strongly advised to seek expert legal help in bringing your case. A specialist personal injury lawyer can help you collect the evidence you need, and will arrange for you to be examined by a medical expert who will produce an official report outlining the cause of your injury and the effect it has had on your life.
Your solicitor will make sure all the claim paperwork is in order, will work hard to negotiate you a fair out-of-court settlement, but will also be there to advise and represent you if the matter has to go to court.
How can I pay for my claim?
Your solicitor will be able to quickly assess whether you have a valid claim with a good chance of success. If it is, they are likely to may agree to take your case on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.
This means that if you don’t win the case, you won’t have to pay your solicitor anything. If you win, your solicitor will charge a ‘success fee’ out of your compensation. This amount will have been agreed before your case starts, but will usually be a fairly small cut of the compensation you receive.
How much compensation will I receive?
The compensation you receive depends on the seriousness of your injuries, how long it takes you to recover and the effect it has had on your life, but could include damages for:
- pain and suffering;
- loss of earnings;
- additional medical treatment or rehabilitation;
- out-of-pocket expenses;
- adaptations required to your care or vehicle.