With weather forecasters poised to tell us that the next cold snap is on its way, the public are advised to take care as each year treacherous winter conditions carry an increased risk of slipping or falling for those going about their daily routine, whether at work, school or in another public place.
One might think there is an absolute right to claim compensation if you have been injured in a fall in bad weather – where there is blame, there is a claim, right? However, as Andrew Wendon, Partner in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence department at WBW Solicitors in Exeter explains, it may not be that easy.
Public liability is the responsibility to maintain any area open to the general public. Businesses and public bodies need to take out public liability insurance to compensate members of the public if they are hurt due to a failure to maintain a reasonable standard in an area they are responsible for.
To successfully claim compensation for a public liability accident you need to prove that there was negligence. This means satisfying the court that you were owed a duty of care, this duty was breached and that you were injured as a result of this breach.
If you were injured after slipping and falling on a badly maintained pavement, or on a spill that had not been cleaned up, claiming compensation would be fairly straightforward. The relevant body would have a duty to clear up the spillage or fix the dangerous pavement in a reasonable time and/or erect a sign to warn members of the public of the hazard. Failing to take such steps would constitute negligence.
A fall due to bad weather is more problematic because although public bodies and companies have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the public is safe on its grounds, this duty is not absolute.
Local authorities have a responsibility to treat roads to make them safe, with major roads taking priority. It is unfeasible to expect them to treat every path and pavement they are responsible for – they simply would not have the money or the manpower to do it. It is unlikely that you would be able to claim compensation for an injury sustained due to bad weather in such places.
This is not to say a claim for a bad weather injury is always impossible as some duty of care requirements still exist. Indoor areas of public places should be regularly mopped to minimise the danger of slips and falls; workplace and school car parks, yards and entranceways should be treated, as should steps and platforms at bus and train stations. If you tripped and fell in icy conditions and there was some other aggravating factor involved, you may well have a claim.
If you have been injured in a public place in cold weather, you should seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. Our expert personal injury solicitors will quickly be able to tell you if you have a valid claim and work hard to claim the compensation you deserve.
They will help you get together the evidence you need to strengthen your claim and ensure you are examined by a medical expert who will assess the cause of your injuries and the effect they have had on your life.
The compensation you receive will depend on how serious your injuries are and your prognosis but could include your medical care and rehabilitation, as well as long term living and loss of earning costs if your injury is serious.
For further information, please contact Andrew Wendon, Partner in the Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence department on 01392 260162 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. WBW Solicitors has nine offices across the South West in Newton Abbot, Bovey Tracey, Torquay, Paignton, Exeter, Launceston, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Honiton.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.