Slips and Trips in the Street: A Guide to the Law
If you injure yourself in the street because, for example, the pavement is defective or because there is a pothole in the road then the most likely defendant is the city council.
Under a piece of law called the Highways Act, the council has got a responsibility to make sure that the roads and pavements under their control are safe for the people who use them. If they don’t carry out that responsibility properly then they may be liable for a compensation claim should someone be injured.
For n accident claim to succeed the injured party would have to show that the defect which caused them to fall was serious enough that if it had been spotted by the council during an inspection they should have repaired it. The Courts have never clarified exactly how serious a defect has to be, but they usually work on the ‘one inch rule’ and ask is the defect greater than an inch? If other people have fallen as a result of the same defect then that could also be classed as serious, regardless of size.
If you can show the defect is serious then the next step is to prove that the council’s system of maintenance and inspection is at fault. If the council can show that they have taken all reasonable care to maintain the highway then they can rely upon what is called a section 58 defence; which refers to section 58 of the Highways Act.
Supportive evidence is very important in any accident claim but its especially significant in claims against the council. That is why we would advise anyone who has had an accident to:
SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION – If you’ve suffered an injury then go to your GP, local A&E or walk in centre as soon as possible so you can get treatment. It is very important that you tell them precisely what happened and that they write down what you’ve told them accurately. If they write that you slipped when you actually tripped or if they record that the accident happened at your home or on the wrong date then that can make things very difficult for you in any future legal claim and the council could use that information to convince a court you are lying.
TAKE CLEAR PHOTOS - Take clear colour photographs showing precisely where you fell. Take close ups of the defect and the surrounding area. You can use a tape measure or ruler to show the size of the defect or even an object like a coin. These photos are all a judge will have to decide if you win your injury case or not so its vital evidence. And remember if the Council repair the defect the next day you won’t be able to take any more.
TAKE WITNESS DETAILS – If someone helps you after your accident or if they see you fall then ask for their details. Their evidence could be crucial in proving your version of events. If you fall outside shops then speak to the local shop keepers to see if they can tell you how long the defect has been there or if other people have had accidents in the past. Similarly if you’ve fallen near houses it’s worth speaking to people who live there to see if they have any helpful information.
CONTACT US – We are expert personal injury solicitors. Our lawyers have experience of dealing with the local council in Swansea and more importantly of succeeding in claims against them.
INJURY CLAIMS AGAINST SWANSEA COUNCIL
Swansea Council are very aware of what they have to do to prevent an accident claim being brought against them. In 2005 they introduced a five year plan of maintenance and investment in the roads. When the plan was reviewed in 2010 they recognised that not enough funding was being put into planned repairs. They therefore changed their maintenance budget and reallocated £700,000. This money was used to fund two gangs to carry out permanent reinstatements and other permanent pothole repairs on a ward by ward basis.
Swansea Council sent teams into wards to carry out outstanding repairs on a permanent basis. They also created a five man “hit squad” for specifically dealing with the most serious defects. This team travel around Swansea, filling in potholes within the time allowed by the law. They also carry out road repairs which are of a better quality and intended to last 20 years rather than the usual 5.
Swansea council has also targeted areas where they regard as “injury claims hotspots.” They had a particularly high number of claims being made in the Newton area, so they allocated resources to making sure that the area was repaired promptly. The number of accident claims reduced as a result. Swansea Council has also removed 1,500km of paving slabs and replacing these with tarmac. Again this is aimed to reduce the number of tripping claims.
Despite all this work people in Swansea are still being injured. We continue to receive calls to our FREE accident helpline from people who are suffering serious injuries because the highways are not as safe as they should be.
When we take on an accident claim against Swansea Council we make sure that we get all of the relevant paperwork and inspection documents from the Council. We look through these carefully to see if the council has done everything reasonable. When required we get a second opinion from a local Swansea barrister. Because they are local they know the area, know the council and will let us know exactly what they think about the system of inspection and the merits of the claim. We ensure that your claim is thoroughly investigated and do everything we can to make sure that you get the right result. If the Council hasn’t done its job then we will get our client’s the compensation they deserve.
If you’ve suffered an accident and want further information then please contact us.