Pavement fall compensation claim

Pavement fall compensation claim against West Northamptonshire Council

I previously handled a pavement fall compensation claim on behalf of a client in Northampton.

My client in this case was a housewife, from Eastern Europe. She was married, with 3 children.

The accident took place on a dark winter’s evening.  My client’s husband had returned home from work, and he started looking after the children.

My client then left the house to walk to a local convenience store, to buy some extra snacks for the evening.

As can be seen from the attached photographs, the pathway ran behind the backs of houses. There was no street lighting.  The only illumination came from the houses nearby.

Accident description

While my client was walking along the path, her right foot went into a depression. This made her fall to the ground.

My client was in extreme pain, and she was unable to stand up. She sat on the ground and called her husband on her mobile.  He quickly fetched his car.

At the hospital, x-rays were taken.  These confirmed that the right ankle was broken in 3 places.  Her right foot was placed in a plaster cast.

On her second visit to the hospital after that, the doctors decided advised that there would be no operation. The plaster cast was removed, and she was given a plastic cast instead.

As a result of the ankle injury, my client also developed pain in her hip and lower back. She believed this was because she was limping and walking awkwardly.

The pain in the right ankle was particularly bad in cold, damp weather.

Obtaining the evidence

Sometimes in this type of claim, the local authority will act swiftly to repair the damage.  In consequence, the evidence of the defect disappears.

For this reason, before sending a letter of claim to the local authority, I encouraged the client and her husband to go back to the scene, and take some photographs.

As you can see from the photographs, the height of the tripping point is clearly seen.

The photographs also very helpfully show some identifiable landmarks in the background.

About the compensation claim

To begin with, the local authority did not respond to the letter of claim.  I believe this was because Northamptonshire County Council was going through some administrative changes.

Eventually the local authority instructed solicitors to defend the claim.

The opposing solicitors admitted most of the blame. But at the same time, they alleged that my client had contributed to the accident, for failing to look where she was going.

These objections were ridiculous. The photographs of the footpath tell their own story, and coupled with a lack of lighting, this was clearly a hazardous state of affairs.

 

Court proceedings were issued.  We pursued the claim on a 100% basis, without any concessions being made for contributory negligence.

Questionable orthopaedic report

Once my client’s medical treatment had run its course, I arranged an independent medical examination, with an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in ankle injuries.

He diagnosed that my client had suffered a trimalleolar fracture.  He also advised that my client faced the risk of future osteoarthritis, and the possible need for an ankle fusion operation.

In response, the opposing solicitors arranged their own separate medical examination, with an orthopaedic surgeon of their own.

The opposing orthopaedic surgeon wrote a hostile report, basically saying that my client was exaggerating her symptoms and her injury was relatively minor.

Surprisingly, the opposing medical expert stated in his report that my client was unable to walk around the supermarket.  My client had told him no such thing.  Several other basic facts were wrong as well, apparently designed to portray my client in a bad light.

Overall it appeared that the opposing orthopaedic surgeon was twisting the facts to suit his predetermined conclusion.

Faced with this highly questionable medical report, I served a series of questions on the opposing medical expert, under Part 35 of the Civil Procedure Rules, basically challenging the opposing orthopaedic surgeon as his credibility. This met with a predictably heated response.

The trial date approached.  To her great credit, my client was fearless and determined to demonstrate to the judge that she was not lying about her injury. I arranged an interpreter for the trial.

About a week before the trial, the opposing solicitors suddenly backed down and agreed to pay appropriate compensation.

Concluding thoughts

For me, this case illustrates the lengths to which a local authority will go, to avoid paying compensation after a perfectly legitimate pavement fall accident.

First of all, the allegations of contributory negligence were without any foundation. In making baseless allegations of that type, the opposing solicitors merely delayed the settlement and caused the costs to escalate.

Secondly, it was disappointing that the opposing orthopaedic surgeon was prepared to “twist the facts” to try to achieve the conclusion he wanted. Admittedly orthopaedic surgeons often have different opinions.  However surely factual truthfulness is not too much to ask.

The legal costs in this case were significant.  If only the local authority and their solicitors had engaged sensibly with the compensation claim from the beginning, a settlement could have been achieved in least a couple of years earlier, and significant expense could have been saved.

If you would like an initial free assessment of your potential pavement fall injury compensation claim, please:

  • Send me some photos of the bad or defective pavement.  Please use the email address bhmk108 AT gmail.com. (Please insert the @ manually. I have excluded it here as a simple anti-spam measure) and
  • Telephone me on 0845 021 2222.  If you prefer, I can easily call you back.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for visiting.

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