Local authorities have a duty of care to maintain roads and pavements to acceptable and safe standards. But what exactly is a safe standard? Whose fault is it if you trip and injure yourself in public?
Pavement and roads
There a certain obligations that local councils and authorities need to fulfil under the Highways Act 1980. This states that they MUST:
- Regularly inspect highways (roads and pavements) to an acceptable standard
- Discover defects in a reasonable amount of time
- Fix any discovered defect in a reasonable amount of time
A question that these obligations raise is; what exactly constitutes a defect? In layman’s terms, it is a hole or pothole, a significantly raised paving slab, or any other shortcoming in the build, design or maintenance in the highway.
However, the defect has to be a certain size to be considered a defect. The trigger point for repairs or maintenance is 25mm (1 inch). This means then that if someone injures themselves in a defect that is 1 inch deep or high, then there is a good chance the local authority is responsible.
Maintenance and liability
If you have suffered such an injury by tripping on a defect, seeking legal help is highly recommended. It is possible in many cases to seek compensation directly through the authority, however most rigorously defend cases, which is why expert knowledge is invaluable.
The statutory defence for personal injury cases like these involves them stating that the defect was not present at the last regular inspection and they were therefore legitimately unaware of it and not legally liable.
With legal help it is possible to discover if the defect had been reported previously and they were therefore negligent in leaving it in a dangerous state. It is also wise to have photos of the particular defect so that its size can be accurately judged. A fifty pence coin placed in it is usually a quick way to show some scale.