The Personal Injury Blog

Tripped on a pavement? What you can do to improve the chances of your claim succeeding…

We receive lots of enquiries from people who have been injured after they have fallen over due to defects in publicly owned and/or maintained roads and pavements. Common injuries include fractured wrists, sprained ankles and knee injuries. We have also represented clients with head injuries, broken noses and hip fractures.

These claims are usually defended by local authorities so it is very important that the injured people or their family and friends make accurate measurements and take clear photographs of the pothole or other defect that caused their injury and also make a note of the addresses of the nearby properties as soon as possible after the accident. Mobile phones are very valuable tools for doing this.

Clearly that will not be the first thing on the mind of someone who has suffered an injury but we strongly advise them or someone on their behalf to do so quickly afterwards as it will greatly increase their chances of winning their claim.

You can view here our guide to documenting street defects. Downloading a copy and keeping it in a safe place may help you should you or someone you know suffer such an injury.

Accurate measurements and photographs prevent disputes with Councils about the depth and width of defects. If they are less than 1 inch/27mm in height, then many Courts will often (but not always) consider them not to be dangerous or actionable. If the client has taken photographs and made accurate measurements then it prevents later arguments about the size of the defect.

By way of example, one of our clients fell and was injured due to a large pothole in the middle of a backstreet in Sheffield. Four days later, and before the client had instructed me, the Council had filled the hole in and because no measurements or photos were taken (the client was naturally keen to go to hospital as soon as possible rather than go home for a ruler and his camera) the local authority denied that the pothole was as deep as the client said it was and has the advantage of evidence from the people who repaired it.

Obtaining the addresses of nearby properties, whether they are residential or commercial, is also very important. Councils often defend cases on the basis that their inspectors visited the street on a date before the accident and that the defect was not there at the time of the inspection. If they are correct, then the client will usually lose the case.

In numerous cases our experience is that if we obtain signed statements from witnesses who live or work near the defect as well as others who regularly use the road or pavement concerned who say that the defect did exist at the time of the inspection then the Council will admit liability and pay compensation. Knowing the addresses of the nearby properties helps us to obtain that evidence.

Jonathan Stittle

Jonathan Stittle, head of our personal injury department, joined Taylor&Emmet in 1986 and became a partner a year later. He studied law in Oxford and Chester and has been a member of the Law Society’s personal injury panel since it was formed in 1994. For more information on this topic email or call him on 0114 218 4049.

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