07 Jan 2021

Personal Injury

Stay safe this winter as the cold weather increases risk of accidents

As the weather gets colder, the nights get darker and the ground gets icy, the risk of weather-related personal injuries tends to spike during the winter months. But if you hurt yourself in a public area, who is responsible and is it possible to claim compensation for your injury?

Senior associate solicitor in our Personal Injury department, Victoria Smithyman, answers some frequently asked questions around winter personal injury claims.

Do you tend to see a rise in personal injury claims in the winter?

During the winter months, road conditions are often more hazardous and darker nights and poor street lighting usually lead to a rise in trips and falls. Puddles, leaves and ice can sometimes obscure potholes, making pavements and roads more dangerous, so there is definitely a higher risk for people who are out and about in cold, icy conditions.

 

Can you make a personal injury claim if you have an accident because of the bad weather?

It all depends on the circumstances of the accident.

If no one else was at fault and the accident was caused purely by the bad weather, it is unlikely that you will be able to pursue a claim. However, if someone has not adjusted their driving in accordance with the weather conditions, for example, then you would be within your rights to bring a claim against them.

If the accident was caused by snow and ice on a small country road, then it is unlikely that someone will be held responsible.  However, if you slip on ice at the entrance to a busy shopping centre, you can probably make a claim against the owners of the centre, depending on the circumstances of the accident.

Remember though that any claim will only be successful if the defendant has been negligent or is in breach of their statutory duty.

 

Who would the claim be made against?

It depends on who owns the land where the accident happened. Local authorities are responsible for the roads and footpaths inside their area of control but some areas are privately owned. Your solicitor can carry out a Land Registry search to reveal who owns the land in question.

If the defendant is a local authority, a claim is generally brought under the relevant provisions of the Highways Act 1980. If the land is privately owned, the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 or 1984 is generally applied.

Any claim made against a local authority will only succeed if it can be proved that they did not implement a reasonable system of inspection and maintenance for the defect that caused the accident.

If you are aware of a particularly dangerous patch of road or pavement I your area, you should report this to the Council so that they can take steps to rectify it.  Likewise, if you have an accident that’s caused by the condition of the pavement or land, make sure you report this as soon as possible time to those who you think may be responsible.

 

How do I make a personal injury claim?

Before any claim can start, your solicitor must assess the prospects of pursuing a successful claim and put in place a suitable funding arrangement such as a Conditional Fee Agreement, also known as a ‘No Win, No Fee’.  Details must be sent to the defendant who usually has anything up to three months to investigate and provide their response.  Often, however, they do take longer.  If fault is admitted, medical evidence to prove the injury you have suffered will need to be obtained before any settlement talks can begin.

If, on the other hand, liability is denied, the process becomes more complex. The denial of liability will need to be investigated by your solicitor, which will delay the progress of the claim as evidence such as witness statements will need to be gathered.

 

What information do I need to make a claim?

You will need to provide the date of the accident, details of the injury suffered and the circumstances of the accident so that an assessment can be made on whether the claim has sufficient prospects to be pursued. We also ask that you try and provide any details you have for the defendant, any witnesses to the accident and any photographs, both of your injuries and of the accident location.

 

What can I do to avoid accidents this winter?

If you have to drive in hazardous conditions:

  • Make sure your car is in good condition and that all heaters, windscreen wipers and windscreen wash work. Check your tyre tread depth and pressure and make sure your lights are working properly.
  • Keep a safe distance from the car in front, reduce your speed and stick to main roads that have been gritted wherever possible.
  • Be extra aware of cyclists and pedestrians as they may not stand out in poor or darker driving conditions.
  • Try and keep travel to daylight hours where possible, to avoid the risk of glaring headlights or poor visibility.

If you are out cycling in the winter:

  • Wear as much high visibility clothing as possible to ensure you are clearly visible at all times.
  • Make sure your tyres have plenty of grip.
  • Ride smoothly around corners, being careful to avoid any debris in the road.
  • Lubricate your bike chain regularly to avoid corrosion.
  • Wear warm clothing, including gloves and a hat under your helmet.
  • Ensure your bike has both a front and back light and keep them switched on at all times.

And if you are out walking in bad weather:

  • Wear bright or high-visibility clothing and avoid dark colours.
  • Avoid slips and falls by wearing suitable footwear with grips on the soles, especially in ice or snow.
  • Be mindful of any obstacles in your path such as hidden ridges or holes in the footpath that are covered by leaves or ice, especially on smaller roads that may not have been cleared.
  • Avoid footpaths that have been in the shade as it will take longer for ice and snow to melt in these area and they may be treacherous.

 

If you have been involved in an accident because of the wintry conditions, our personal injury team can tell you if you’re entitled to make a claim. Get in touch on 029 20 244233 or hello@hevans.com.

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