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Slip, Trip and Fall FAQs

What should I do if I have had a tripping/slipping/falling accident?

If you are injured in a tripping accident in a public place you should try to:

  • Make a note of where the accident occurred e.g. the house number and road outside which it happened
  • Take details of any witnesses to the incident. [Even if they are friends or relatives their evidence is still important].
  • If possible take a photograph of the defect that caused the incident, with something to show a scale - such as a ruler, a coin, matchbox or an object of a fixed size, or make a plan of the accident site.

As soon as practical, whilst it is still fresh in your memory, write down your version of how the accident occurred.

See a doctor for an examination even if your injuries are relatively minor.

If the injuries can still be seen (e.g. bruising, cuts etc) get a photograph for later use. This can be used as evidence of your injury.

Keep details of any clothing, glasses etc., damaged in the incident. Keep receipts for any expenses incurred such as prescription charges, over the counter medicines, traveling expenses such as necessary taxi journeys.

How can I bring a successful compensation claim if I have had a tripping accident in the street or on the road?

In order to be successful it is necessary to prove:

  • The defect (raised paving slab, hole in tarmac etc) which caused the accident must be dangerous.
  • The defect must have been caused by the council not maintaining or repairing the footpath; and
  • The injury was caused as a direct result of the defect and the council's failure to maintain the footpath.
The defect (raised paving slab, hole in tarmac etc) which caused the accident must be dangerous.

It is difficult to give guidance on what the court will find to be dangerous. It will depend on the type and size of the defect, if it has caused other accidents, where it is located (i.e. outside an old people's home, school or hospital will be more dangerous than on a residential footpath) and any other relevant factors.

It is, therefore, important that as soon as practicably possible after your accident you take photographs of the place where you had your accident, showing its depth, length and width.

The courts have made it clear that they do not expect footpaths and carriageways to be maintained to a 'bowling green' standard. It is generally accepted that where the defect's depth or height is below one inch then it is unlikely that the claim will succeed.

Even if the defect is found to be dangerous, then the council can still defend the claim if they can show that they carried out an inspection of the section of highway, within a reasonable period of time prior to the accident.

The general guidance for what is a reasonable period of time for footway inspections is confirmed in the Local Authorities' Code of Practice for Maintenance Management and is as follows:

Busy urban shopping and business area, bus stations and train stations should be inspected once a month.

  • Local shopping centres, large schools and industrial centres should be inspected every three months.
  • Footways through urban areas and busy rural footways should be inspected every six months.
  • Low usage footways and cul de sacs should be inspected every 12 months.

Most councils now operate a system which complies with these inspection requirements, so it is consequently very difficult to succeed in a claim. However, if it can be proven to the court's satisfaction that the defect was present and 'missed' or simply not seen at the time the inspection was carried out, then the claim will usually succeed (subject, of course, to the court also finding that the defect was dangerous).

The usual way to prove that the defect was missed at the time of the inspection is by obtaining evidence from a witness or witnesses(usually somebody who lives near to or passes over the defect regularly) who can confirm that they have seen the defect before and that it has been present for a long period of time and must, therefore, have been missed at the time of the council's inspection.

In summary, it is often (contrary to public belief) very difficult to prove a tripping claim. However, most cases do not proceed to court and with good evidence a claim will usually succeed.