Spring has sprung – or it had!

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Posted 12/03/2013

With spring having just been buried under a flurry of snow, and variable weather very much a feature of life in the UK, it is worth recapping on what we can expect to see by way of action from the local authority, individuals and employers when faced with the hazards of snow and ice.The Highways Act 1980 imposes a duty on local authorities to ensure safe passage along a highway (which also covers footpaths, bridleways and bridges) and that such passage is not endangered by snow or ice. However, just because snow or ice is present and an accident occurs does not automatically mean there is a right to compensation. You still have to prove your case.The local authority will have a defence to such claims if they can show that they took reasonable steps to maintain the highway. What is “reasonable” falls to be decided on a case by case basis and such matters as the frequency of inspection of their salting / gritting policy are of obvious importance – in short, did they implement their adverse weather policy correctly.Remember also that the Act does not impose a duty upon local authorities to be continuously salting / gritting or clearing roads. Again, it is all about what is reasonable. Indeed, there are also economical and environmental factors to consider.If you slip, trip or fall on someone’s property and suffer injury as a result of snow or ice you may have a claim against them under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.Under the Act, the owner of the land has a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that any visitor is reasonably safe. In short, the owner only has a duty to do what is reasonable in all the circumstances. As with the Highways Act, the duty is not absolute and falls to be assessed on a case by case basis.As an owner you should actively consider what reasonable steps you can take; for example, clearing steps and walkways, gritting, placing warning signs, etc. Of course by removing one hazard you should not create another!At work, again, your employer should take steps to ensure that walkways into the building where you work are cleared / gritted or closed off. They should heed weather forecasts and take steps to implement their adverse weather policy properly and in good time.In the case of an accident at work, other regulations may also come into play and if you are unlucky enough to be injured in an accident on or around your employer’s premises it is important that you seek legal advice.Tom Ranson of Ashtons Legal Injury Services says: “We should consider the safety and wellbeing of others as well as ourselves. Unfortunately, accidents do still happen and the issue of blame may not be obvious. It is important that legal advice is sought sooner rather than later to ensure that the evidence is gathered at the earliest opportunity. If in doubt – make that phone call!”


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