According to the Manchester Evening News, compensation claims have cost Greater Manchester taxpayers more than £7.4 million in the last year.
Very often, people can see a fall as a simple accident which is not very important. However, a fall can cause serious injuries such as fractures. The story of the lady from Blackley is a familiar one. When accidents do occur, they can have a significant impact on a person’s life not only in terms of pain and inconvenience but also financially, people can end up losing their jobs and homes.
The fact that injuries have occurred as a result of a trip should not mean that the accident can be thought of as “something and nothing.” Courts award compensation on the basis of how serious the injuries are and not on the basis of how the accident occurred.
However, obtaining compensation for an injury when someone has tripped on a pavement is notoriously difficult.
Firstly, the person bringing the claim has to prove that an accident has occurred as a result of a trip. As said by Mr Hardacre “judges are very good at seeing through fraudulent and spurious claims.” The vast majority of people considering claiming compensation are honest and have suffered real injuries.
However, even when a genuine accident has occurred, this does not mean that compensation will be paid. Local council’s are not expected to keep their pavements in perfect condition and a Claimant must show the defect was bad enough to need to be repaired. This is often the subject of great dispute with local councils.
Furthermore, even when a real accident has occurred due to a sufficiently serious defect then local councils still have a defence available to them. If they can show that they have a reasonable system in place for inspecting the pavements and roads to find and repair defects and they have followed this system, then they will not be held responsible for the accident. A reasonable system of inspection could simply involve council inspectors driving along roads every 6 months or so, looking for defects.
Therefore, the cards are all stacked in the favour of the local councils. Yet, despite this, the very fact that claimants have won over £7.4m shows that the local councils are allowing their roads and pavements to fall into disrepair and are simply not following their own procedures for locating and repairing defects.
Local councils have it in their control to reduce the number of claims. They have responsibilities to keep their highways in repair. By keeping their highways in a reasonable state of repair and by correctly following relatively simple procedures to check their highways are not falling into disrepair they could firstly reduce the number of accidents which happen in the first place and escape liability for many of the accidents which do then occur. This is evidenced by the fact that Salford council have increased the amount spent on road repairs and have vastly reduced the amount of compensation paid out. This is surely in everyone’s interests. The roads are in better condition, there are fewer accidents and in due course, it is likely that the councils will start to save money overall.
Furthermore, if compensation is due to a claimant, then again, the local council’s and their advisors have it in their own power to reduce the amount paid in legal costs both to their own legal teams and to the claimant’s lawyers. If the local councils reviewed the claims on a more pragmatic basis and admitted liability early in cases where it was warranted and followed the court guidelines for claims then legal fees would be reduced.
If local councils want to reduce the amount they are paying in compensation and legal costs then it is in their own power to do so.