The state of our pavements

The condition of our roads and pavements, known collectively as ‘highways,’ is often the source of debate and consternation. Many highways contain defects, including uneven, worn or rocking flagstones and potholes, some worse than others! Sadly, those who literally fall foul of these defects can sustain serious injuries, including fractures or serious soft tissue injuries. Pavement trips are no laughing matter!

So why are more compensation claims not pursued for those injured by trips on the highway? The answer is that it can be very difficult to succeed at Trial with this type of claim because of the law which is applied to them.

Firstly, a council or local authority are able to raise a valid defence to any tripping claim, under the Highways Act 1980 if they can produce inspection records to demonstrate that the stretch of land where the accident occurred was inspected within a reasonable period of time prior to the accident. The government and Courts recognise that council resources are not limitless and that inspectors must prioritise the busiest areas for the most frequent inspection.

What is a reasonable period of time? This will depend upon the type and nature of the highway, as well as how busy the highway is. For example, a main high street or shopping area in Newcastle city centre should be inspected more frequently than a back lane in the suburbs, as the number of people using the shopping street day to day is much higher. Highways are usually inspected on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

By way of an example, if the stretch of highway on which the accident occurred is subject to an annual check then, even if the accident occurred eleven and a half months after the last check, the Council will usually have a valid defence to the claim.

Usually, the individual council or local authority will set their own guidelines regarding how often each stretch of highway should be checked, due to their local knowledge of the area.

Even in those cases where the council or local authority cannot prove that they correctly inspected the area, compensation is unlikely to be awarded if the injured person cannot demonstrate that the defect was dangerous, or ‘actionable.’. What represents an actionable defect will again depend upon a number of factors, but as a general rule, Courts are unlikely to find a defect of less than one inch in height or depth to be negligent.

If you have been injured due to a defect in the pavement and are considering making a claim, it will be useful to take photographs straight away of the defect with a ruler or other object to show that the defect is greater than an inch in size. You should then also report the defect to the relevant council or local authority.

Even given the above difficulties, successful claims can be pursued in suitable cases. Each enquiry to Browell Smith & Co is assessed on its own facts and merits and if our team of senior solicitors consider that your claim has reasonable prospects of success, you may be offered no win, no fee funding to pursue the claim.

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