Falling To Earth: The Risks Of Being A Pedestrian In Austerity Britain:

Have you ever tripped over when walking on the pavement? If not, you’ve been lucky. It happens to thousands of people every day across the UK. Although, according to the “Help The Aged” organization, 2,300 of these are elderly pensioners, the problem doesn’t only affect that particular generation.

In February 2015, the London Evening Standard  revealed that – despite the fact that 95% of claims lodged annually are rejected – Westminster Council had paid out over £400,000 in just three years as compensation to pedestrians who had fallen over due to loose pavement slabs and had blamed the accident on badly maintained walkways.

The “Liverpool Echo” has noted that pothole and pavement claims are costing local taxpayers a potential £32.5 million pa: Over a 12-month period, Liverpool Council received 6,500 claims from people who said they’d been injured falling over broken paving stones. The successful ones received an average of £5,000 each. The bill for London’s Haringey Council is rather more modest – but they still had to pay out £15,000 for injuries on the Borough’s pavements last year.

Under the Highways Act 1980, the local authorities are responsible for inspecting and maintaining not just the pavements in their area but also the roads, streets, potholes and drains. They are liable to be taken to Court if it can be shown that a defect which caused an injury has been around for a long time and nothing has been done to repair it.

Councils interpret the Act in different ways: Exmouth Council – in response to a petition organised by Kevin Palmer, a local shopkeeper – has told the “Exmouth Journal” that, due to increasing financial pressures, it’s policy is to carry out repairs only if they meet strict criteria. This includes a “sharp-edged defect with a vertical deviation of more than 20mm from the adjacent surrounding area; a crack or gap greater than 20mm wide and 20mm deep”. Devon County Council use a similar criteria and say that they are committed to carrying out repairs within seven days of a problem being identified.

Surrey County Council point out on their website that they are responsible for 4 square miles (10 square km) of pavement and that these deteriorate due to pedestrian use, weather conditions and the need for utility companies to maintain their equipment: “These factors can cause cracks and holes to appear in the pavement and make them uneven”. They calculate that restoring all their pavements to good condition will cost £80 m. Wandsworth Borough has 460 miles of pavements: “The footpaths alone are enough to stretch to Aberystwyth in Wales and back”.

Tripping over on the pavement can be extremely embarrassing and a bit of a shock, but -as “Johnson-law.co.uk” emphasize – you need more than that to obtain compensation. If you get up quickly, collect your shopping and walk away with no more than grazes or a minor bruise on your hands or knees, that probably won’t be enough either – but a serious injury, such as a sprain, deep lacerations, broken bones or concussion certainly would be. Even then, you have to prove that the raised paving slab was “at least 1 inch above the normal pavement level or the pothole at least 1 inch deep”.

The advice of “claimsaction.co.uk” is to take photographs of the offending pavement, “placing some object such as a ruler, matchbox or coin into the hole or against the raised portion in such a way that it gives an indication of the depth or height of the defect”. Furthermore, you should take the contact details of any witnesses as they might be needed to corroborate the facts in Court, inform the local authority “so they can’t feign ignorance” and immediately seek medical attention from a doctor, hospital or walk-in clinic so that a record has been made of the incident: “Getting a relative or neighbour to tend to your injuries wouldn’t be sufficient, even if they happen to be a nurse.

The “statute of limitations” for making personal injury claims is 3 years. Once that period has elapsed “you won’t be able to file a pavement trip compensation claim, irrespective of the circumstances surrounding the accident”. Loss of earnings due to your having to take time off from work and expenses such as prescription charges, taxis and car parking fees can all be added to the amount of compensation awarded.

Any personal injury lawyer you go to “will first assess the extent of your injuries before deciding whether or not to take your case on a “no win no fee basis”. If your injuries are completely healed within a week or two after the accident, “they are unlikely to be interested”.

“Accidentclaimsadvice.org.uk” warn that tough penalties may be imposed on anyone tempted to make fraudulent claims or “elaborate the details of an accident”. In addition, “if your pavement claim is not strong enough and lacks proper evidence, you may end up on the losing side” – and hence have to pay extensive legal costs.

Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on January 11th, 2016 by Colin D Gordon

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