Lime Solicitors (Shakespeare Martineau)
Winter’s icy conditions can make even the simplest walk or drive more dangerous and as the temperatures drop, the number of accidents rise.
This week, the Met Office issued a weather warning stating that icy stretches are likely to develop across the UK, which could lead to injuries caused by slips or falls.
While fortunately, most of us get off lightly with just a bruised ego after slipping on ice, some will sadly be much more seriously injured. The question then arises: will they be eligible to make a personal injury claim? This is also a slippery area.
Generally, to be eligible to claim compensation, you must have sustained injuries in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence. So, how can you prove fault and who might the defendant be?
Slipping on the streets
Local authorities are legally required by the Highways Act 1980 to inspect, maintain and repair public roads and pavements. When it comes to snow and ice, highway authorities are under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.
So while the local authority does owe a duty of care on public roads and pavements, you might be in for a hard time claiming. This is because any compensation award has to be paid out of everyone’s council tax and the courts apply a very strict test to what is reasonably practicable, bearing in mind time and prioritisation and allocation of resources.
Injuries at work
Employers have a duty of care to their employees to provide the workplace a safe environment to work in. All floors and traffic routes should be free from obstructions or hazards as far as is reasonably practicable.
This means they must do everything reasonably practicable to prevent employees slipping on ice and snow in the workplace. This will include areas such as car parks, entrances and exits. It is important to understand that it has to be realistic.
It is also worth knowing that it is illegal for your employer to sack you for making a compensation claim against them. This would amount to unfair dismissal.
Falls on private property
If an accident that causes injury occurs outside of the workplace and public spaces – such as in a supermarket car park, for example – it would be classed as an occupiers’ liability claim.
The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 states that the occupier of a building must take reasonable care in all the circumstances to keep lawful visitors reasonably safe. Here, you must be able to prove the owner of a building had not taken reasonable steps to ensure, for example, there was no build-up of ice or snow in car parks.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that the law does not require people are kept completely safe from harm, only that steps are taken to ensure they are reasonably safe from harm.
Clearing snow outside your home
Homeowners also have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure people on their property are reasonably safe. However, it is a myth that they can be sued for clearing snow from outside the home when someone subsequently slips and hurts themselves.
If all you’ve done is pour hot water on the ground, which, in this weather, will simply freeze into a sheet of ice, you may be liable. But any attempt at using common sense to clear snow or ice should not leave you exposed to a claim – especially when you are a private individual trying to do a good deed for your community.
For more information on making a personal injury compensation claim, please visit www.limesolicitors.co.uk/personal-injury-compensation