Can I Bring a Claim for Compensation Following a slip or Fall Due to Icy and Snowy Weather Conditions?
Aston Knight Solicitors, a local solicitor in Bury, are specialist personal injury solicitors helping victims of all types of accidents and injury including accident and injury at work, slips and trips at work or in public places.
Over recent months most of the United Kingdom, including Bury, have been subjected to adverse weather conditions causing chaos to road users and pedestrians alike. Slip and trip accidents increase during the Autumn and Winter seasons for several reasons: there is less daylight, leaves fall onto pathways and become wet creating a hazard, cold weather causes ice and snow to build on footpaths.
At Aston Knight Solicitors we have seen an increase in enquiries from injured victims seeking legal advice on whether they can pursue a claim for compensation following a slip or fall due to icy and snowy weather conditions.
Slips and falls can occur anywhere, and our specialist advice will vary depending on where the person slip or fall occurred.
Slip or Fall on Snow or Ice on a Public Footpath
As snow falls and the frost sets in footpaths and paving’s can become very dangerous to pedestrians.
If you have had a slip or fall on a footpath or pavement you may have a claim for compensation against the local authority.
It is the responsibility of the relevant Highways Authority (namely the local council/authority) under section 41(1A) of the Highways Act 1980 to ‘ensure, so far as reasonable practicable, that safe passage along the highway [was] not endangered by snow or ice’.
The law, however, recognises that it is impossible for any local authority to make every footpath and pavement within its area safe as soon as snow or ice falls. The Courts will also consider the resources of the local authority.
I refer below to two cases where the Courts came to different conclusions on each case.
In Peter Barry Yew -v-Gloucestershire County Council (2013) the Claimant injured himself after falling on ice on a footpath in a town centre. It was accepted that no salting or gritting of the footpath had taken place. The local authority had in place an adverse weather plan which provided that priority would be given to roads and that, owing to the “finite resources available”, resources would not be allocated to treat the county’s 3,200km of footway network. The Court held that the local authority’s adverse weather plan was a reasonable one and in days of limited resources, it was inevitable that once could not do everything. The local authority had to focus on the priorities, and it was reasonable to prioritise the roadways over footpaths. The Court considered it was a relevant factor in the case that the footfall was comparatively low in the area. The Claimant’s case failed.
In Sandra Rockliffe -v- Liverpool City Council (2013) the Claimant had been walking along a footway identified by the local authority as a “priority one prestige walking zone”, namely an exclusively pedestrian thoroughfare, in mid-Winter when she fell on ice and sustained a skull fracture. The local authority had not salted or gritted the footway, nor cleared it of ice. As a matter of prioritisation, its policy was to only salt, grit and clear ice on footways if snow was also present. The issue was whether the local authority was liable for her injuries and in particular whether its policy was reasonable.
The Court found that freezing, icy conditions prevailed when the Claimant fell and that was known to and appreciated by the local authority, and it was those icy conditions that caused the Claimant to fall and sustain her injuries. On the local authority’s own evidence, the manpower was available to undertake salting and gritting operations had the decision been taken to do so. Accordingly, it was practicable for it to have ensured the lack of endangerment through ice by applying salt and grit. Further, it was unreasonable for it not to have done so. Importantly there was no evidence that the policy only to treat footways if snow was present was set because of identified and asserted resource constraints in respect of manpower or materials. The Claimant’s claim was successful.
It is apparent from comparing the above two cases that the Court will look at the local authority’s policy and will consider if the policy was reasonable having regards to the resources available and the level of priority afforded to the footway.
Slip or fall on Private Land
What happens if you had a slip or fall on a frozen pathway leading to a shop or in a supermarket carpark? If you slip or fall on a pathway which is on private land the applicable law is the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. This piece of legislation states that the occupiers have a duty of care to anyone visiting, and this duty of care extends to taking reasonable steps to ensure that walkways are free from hazardous snow or ice.
The key issue here is establishing whether the occupier had taken reasonable steps to deal with the weather conditions. Our specialist team of personal injury solicitors can advise you on whether you have a legitimate claim. The information we will want to know are details of when any snow fell or when freezing was likely to have taken place, as well as whether any weather warnings were in force. You will need to demonstrate that the occupier should have known that a risk would become present and had the time to take the steps necessary to alleviate that risk such as gritting.
Slip or fall on Snow or Ice at Work
If you have had an accident or injury at work due to a slip or fall on ice, you may be able to bring a claim for compensation for your work injury against your employer.
Your employer has a duty to reduce the risk of slips on ice, frost or snow and to assess the risk and put in place a system to manage it. Your employer must identify the outdoor areas used by pedestrians most likely to be affected by ice, for example: building entrances, car parks, pedestrian walkways, shortcuts, sloped areas and areas constantly in the shade or wet. Your employer must monitor the temperatures as prevention is key and take action whenever freezing temperatures are forecast. If freezing or snowy conditions are forecast your employer has a duty to put in place a procedure to prevent an icy surface forming and/or keep pedestrians of the slippery surface. To do this your employer can use grit, can consider covering walkways or divert pedestrians to less slippery walkways and barrier off existing ones.
If you have had a work injury caused through a slip or fall on ice or snow and your employer has not carried out the above then they may be deemed negligent. We recommend you contact one of our team today.
By Emma Pearce, Solicitor