Trips, Falls and Public Liability
Falls on public roads, pavements and footpaths are a common cause of injury. Accidents do happen of course, and you wouldn’t expect pavements to be perfectly flat, but if the body responsible for maintaining the highway, usually the local council, has not taken sufficient care then it may be that the law has been broken.
Liability under the Highways Act
The main legislation relevant to slips and trips on pavements and roads is the Highways Act 1980. For publicly maintained roads (so not private roads or driveways), the local council is responsible for maintaining them in a reasonable condition. In the case of motorways and trunk roads the responsibility is on the Highways Agency. If the road or pavement is in a bad state, there is a defence to a claim if the council can show it has taken all due care to do what it can to keep the road maintained.
Part one - is the highway in an acceptable condition?
The Highways Act requires the council to keep its highways (roads, pavements, footpaths etc.) maintained in a condition so they do not pose a danger to the people that might be expected to use them. This means different standards might apply to main roads, shopping streets, pavements on residential roads and country footpaths.
Part two - did the council take sufficient care?
If it can be shown that the pavement or road was in a condition that should have been repaired, the council may have a defence to the claim if it can be shown that the accident happened despite it taking all due care. Councils usually inspect their roads and pavements regularly, and it may be that the damage to the road or pavement happened after its last inspection.
Other public liability
Apart from claims in respect of defective pavements, accidents elsewhere can also give rise to legal claims.
Shops, offices, schools and other premises open to the public should be kept reasonably safe for their visitors and landlords should keep their properties reasonably safe for their tenants. Those who organise events and activities should plan and organise them so the risk of accidents is kept to a minimum.
In general, the law of negligence is one of common sense – if someone has made a mistake and caused you an injury, it is likely they are legally to blame.
If you have suffered an injury due to a fall on public road or pavement, the dangerous condition of someone’s premises or some other accident that put you in harm’s way, contact our personal injury team to see how we can help put things right.
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