I have handled several pavement trip compensation claims against local councils.
To win a case of this type, we have to prove certain facts.
First of all, we have to prove that the accident happened on land “maintained at public expense”.
Quite often, the land actually turns out to be private.
Sometimes utility companies, such as gas or water suppliers, caused the tripping hazard.
If so, then they can be responsible, and not the local council.
Highways Act 1980
However in most cases the compensation claim will be on the basis of breach of the Highways Act 1980.
To meet that duty, the local council must demonstrate that it had a suitable system for the pavement to be regularly inspected, and fixed if necessary.
To be realistic, if the local council proves it had an adequate system of inspection, then the claim will go no further.
Quite often, the local council will try to blame the injured person.
Other common accusations are failure to wear glasses, failure to keep a proper lookout and even prior knowledge of the defect.
Generally speaking, such accusations do not withstand close scrutiny.
Why should somebody have to “look at the ground with every step he takes”?
Pavement trip compensation: case study 1
The first case study concerns a pavement trip accident in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.
Between the flats and the pavement was a concrete path.
At the point where the path met the pavement, an old tree root had been allowed to disrupt the pavement.
While carrying some photocopier supplies out to his nearby car, the client tripped and broke his ankle.
Just two days before his accident, the client had started his own business, selling reconditioned photocopiers internationally.
The accident badly disrupted his new business for the first year of trading.
The local authority’s solicitors denied liability.
On arrival at Warwick Hospital after the accident, an incorrect entry had been made in the records.
The Accident and Emergency admission card stated that the accident had occurred while the client was in his garden shed.
The local authority’s solicitors seized upon this, stating that the accident was nothing to do with the pavement.
To counter this, we took photographs showing that the shed was packed with junk, and it was physically impossible to get inside.
Settlement was achieved roughly two years after the accident.
Despite the claim, the pavement had still not been repaired by then.
Pavement trip compensation: case study 2
The next case study is from Kings Heath, a suburb of Birmingham.
In that case, the tripping hazard was directly outside the client’s home.
Severn Trent Water had recently installed an inspection box, so they could check the water mains.
But they had failed to reinstate the pavement again afterwards.
As can be seen from the photograph, the result was an area of rubble.
My client tripped there and fractured her ankle.
She required an operation to insert a plate and pins.
Her mother and sisters helped around the house generally, until she had recovered sufficiently.
I made a compensation claim against Birmingham City Council and also against Severn Trent Water.
Clearly one of them was to blame, yet they both denied liability.
Accordingly I started court proceedings.
Liability for the accident was then conceded.
The litigation continued for a further period until sensible compensation was offered.
Pavement trip compensation: case study 3
The next pavement trip accident took place in Kingstanding, a working class area of North Birmingham.
The hazard in this case consisted of a large manhole cover.
There had been absolutely no attempt to make the manhole cover flush with the surrounding footpath.
My client uses a walking stick, following a previous motorcycle injury. He was walking home in the dark.
On the way home, he tripped over the manhole cover and fell to the ground.
The next morning he had severe back pain and was unable to move.
As a result, he called an ambulance and attended at the Good Hope Hospital.
Their loss adjusters admitted liability promptly.
In that case, appropriate compensation was agreed without the need to issue court proceedings.
Pavement trip compensation: case study 4
The next case study is from Erdington, in North Birmingham.
The hole was an unguarded utilities access chamber. This was originally intended to have a lid, but the lid was missing.
The resulting hole was roughly 4 inches square.
When her accident happened, my client was with a group of friends. They were returning to her house, from the pub.
My client’s foot went down the hole, and she tripped and fell.
X-rays were taken, but the hospital failed initially to spot the the ankle was fractured, and this delayed her treatment by several days.
I arranged an independent orthopaedic examination.
Luckily the prognosis was for a complete recovery.
Furthermore the delayed diagnosis was not judged to be significant.
I then made a compensation claim against the council and against Severn Trent Water.
They agreed to pay compensation, and to share liability between them on a 50/50 basis.
Appropriate damages were eventually negotiated.
Making a claim against the council – Tactics used by local authorities
Most pavement trip compensation claims are contested.
Presumably, local authorities want to prevent the “floodgates” from opening.
Faced with a claim, the council and its loss adjusters and/or solicitors will often try to avoid responsibility.
Common allegations include the following:
- The land was private, and so not under the council’s control
- Third party contractors were responsible
- The defect had arisen suddenly, so was not picked up by the monthly inspections
- The claimant “overbalanced and fell”, or “failed to look where he was placing his feet”
The role of the solicitor
Based on experience, such claims require a particular approach.
The solicitor must:
- Swiftly get photographs of the pavement before the evidence is destroyed
- Ask the local council to disclose its inspection records
- Do a Land Registry search, if the local council denies owning the land
- Start court proceedings if co-operation from the local authority is not forthcoming.
As stated above, it is always sensible to obtain photographs.
On occasions, the accident results from a smooth dip or hollow, in a tarmac pavement.
If so, then the best method is to place a metre rule over the top. You can then measure the distance from the rule to the bottom of the dip.
Long-range photographs are helpful. These should show the hazard in relation to nearby landmarks, such as a street name or house number.
Photographs should be taken from “all points of the compass”, showing the defective footpath as seen by pedestrians approaching from different directions.
The last word
If you would like an initial free assessment of your potential trip accident claim, please either:
- Click Free Assessment and complete the online questionnaire, or
- Telephone me personally on 0845 021 2222.
Thanks for visiting. I look forward to hearing from you.