As the temperatures hover around zero and our heating bills soar, we often hear about the unfortunate accidents that people have after slipping on ice and snow in and around Sheffield.
Well, it depends…
It is a curiosity, and something of an injustice that the law works differently depending on exactly where your accident took place.
Accidents on public roads, footpaths, or open spaces
Sadly, you will be unlikely to succeed with a claim against a local authority if you slip on snow or ice (or anything else lying on the ground for that matter, like leaves or mud). The Courts have decided that it is unreasonable to expect a local authority to lay grit and remove snow and ice from every footpath and road, which, let’s face it, would be almost impossible. Under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980, the Highway Authority has a responsibility to ensure “so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice”.
In other words, although they have a responsibility to see that icy paths and highways are made safe by gritting or other means, in the event of an accident, the Highway Authority is judged by the Courts on a standard of what is “reasonably practicable.” The mere presence of ice, snow or frost on the pavements which leads to the accident is unlikely to be enough in itself for a Court to find the local authority at fault as the Courts accept that it is not “reasonably practicable” for a Council to clear snow and ice from each and every road and footpath after each snowfall.
Accidents on private land (e.g. land belonging to car parks, hotels, shops or leisure centres)
Imagine you are making your way across the car park of a large supermarket when you slip on ice and fall. The law imposes a higher duty on the owner of the supermarket, under the Occupiers’ Liability Act of 1957, than it imposes on a local authority. That said, it’s not completely straightforward. Continuing the supermarket example, it is clear that supermarket X has to take reasonable care that customers are kept reasonably safe when visiting their premises.
When considering claims, Courts look at each one on its own merits and assess whether or not supermarket X acted reasonably by looking at the facts of the particular accident. For example, the Judge might consider if the area had been gritted, whether warning signs were in place, whether there had been a weather warning of snow and ice which was not heeded by supermarket X, and how long the ice/snow/frost that caused the incident had been present.
Accidents at work
There are various technical pieces of legislation that make up the law in this area, but, in a nutshell, your employer has to take reasonable steps to keep you safe at work. This means, in reality, making sure that walkways and steps are cleared and/or gritted if there is snow or ice, and if they cannot be gritted, they must be cordoned off.
So the prospects of a successful personal injury claim are generally highest if your slip on ice or snow occurs on your employer’s land. If the accident is on privately owned land, the prospects are generally reasonable, depending on the circumstances, but if it is on a road, footpath or other land owned and/or maintained by a Local Authority, then the chances of succeeding are very low.
If you have had a slip on ice, snow or frost, and would like some advice about whether you can make a claim, then call our expert Solicitors on 0114 218 4000 or email email@example.com.
Remember, if possible:
- Take lots of photos of where your accident happened.
- If you go to hospital or the GP, explain exactly how your accident occurred.
- If your accident occurs at work or on private land, complete an accident report.
- Get the details of any witnesses.