Winter Weather Slips and Trips

It is essential to take extra care this time of year as icy weather conditions inevitably lead to more trips and slips. Although falls often result in bruising and perhaps even a bruised ego, falls on ice can be far more sinister. Our natural instinct is to protect ourselves by putting our hands out to lessen the blow. However, when falling on an icy surface, it is impossible to predict in which direction your body will land, which could increase exposure to a more severe injury.

If you have had a fall on ice, you potentially have a personal injury claim, but this depends on several important factors. The most important one being where exactly the fall took place.

Can I bring a claim if I fell on a public path?

Section 41(1A) of the Highways Act 1980 contains a duty:

“to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice”.
It may seem promising when raising a claim for those who have fallen on ice on a publicly owned pathway, as it effectively places a duty of care on local councils. However, the House of Lords in Goodes v East Sussex CC [2000] 1 WLR 1336 determined that the maintenance duty under S.41 of the Highways Act 1980 did not extend to the removal of surface-lying material such as snow and ice.

This decision is based upon a balance being struck between the risk of injury and the cost/resources required to remove such risk. [1]

The local council has discretion on where to prioritise its resources, and the Court is unlikely to interfere unless its priorities are deemed unreasonable. [2]

With this consideration, it can be difficult to bring a claim against your local authority if you have had a trip on a public highway in unfavourable weather conditions.

Can I bring a claim if I fell on private land?

These types of claims differ in that they come under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. However, the presence of snow or ice does not automatically mean the private owner or business is liable. It must be demonstrated that the owner knew there was a hazard and they failed to act and/or they failed to have a reasonable system of inspection. Therefore, it is more straightforward to bring a claim for slipping on ice if the land is privately owned.

Here at BTMK Solicitors, we have a team of experienced and highly specialised personal injury solicitors who are happy to help if you have suffered any type of injury.

Please contact our team on 01702 339222 as soon as possible because you only have three years from the date of the accident to progress any claim.

Written by Amelia Ward a paralegal in the Personal Injury team

[1] = Edwards v National Coal Board [1949] 1 KB 704
[2] = Ryder v Highland Council [2013] CSOH 95

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