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FAQs: Winter weather and personal injury claims

View profile for Cristina Parla
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Every week, The Law Society invites law firms to take part in #solicitorchat hour on Twitter, which provides the opportunity to answer popular legal queries.  On 23 January, I took part in the Personal Injury session (and won!)  Here’s what happened:

"As the winter months and cold weather continue, the risk of weather-related personal injury claims can increase. But who is responsible for making sure public areas are safe during the icy months? And what can you do if you slip and injure yourself and don’t think it’s your fault?”

Questions we’ll be exploring:

Do you notice a rise in personal injury claims during the winter months?

We receive more enquiries during spells of bad weather.  More accidents seem to happen because roads and footpaths are more dangerous. The number of enquiries increase from road users, pedestrians and cyclists.  But it does not necessarily mean that there is a rise in personal injury claims.  As with any type of personal injury claim, it must have sufficient prospects of success in order to be pursued.

Talk us through the process of making a personal injury claim.

Once your solicitor has established that prospects are good enough to proceed, discussions will take place in respect of how the matter is to be funded. There are a number of options out there but “no win, no fee” type arrangements are still very popular.  Once the funding arrangement is in place a claim notification form or letter of claim will be sent to the person(s) or organisation(s) at fault for your accident.  Depending on the type of case, there is a total investigation protocol period of three to six months for them to advise on liability.  If liability is admitted, your solicitor will take steps to prove the value of your claim.  You will undergo a medical examination with an independent expert and your solicitor will ask you to provide details of your financial losses.  Once the evidence is complete, your solicitor can negotiate settlement with the other side.  If liability is denied, the matter could be more complicated as investigations will need to take place concerning the denial, and this could delay the progress of your claim.

What information will your solicitor need you to provide if you need to make a personal injury claim?

Detailed circumstances of the accident, your injuries (photographs are always helpful), witness details, vehicle details if involved in a road traffic accident, photographs of the defect if you are pursuing a trip/slip claim, identity of the person or organisation at fault for the accident and evidence in support of your financial losses.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have all this information straight away.  But the basics must be provided in order to get a claim off the ground.

If an accident is caused by bad weather, what are your rights when it comes to making a personal injury claim?

An accident in bad weather does not bring an automatic right to pursue a claim for compensation.  For there to be a basis of a legal claim, there has to be negligence.  In other words, you must show that the defendant has been negligent, and their negligence has caused you to suffer loss and damage.

The Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 imposes a duty on the occupier to ensure that visitors are kept reasonably safe for the purpose of their visit.  The keyword is reasonably.

Who is responsible for making sure public areas are safe in icy conditions?

Simply put, it’s the responsibility of whoever has control over the area - but it’s not always obvious! Some roads, streets and pavements are privately owned and therefore not maintained by the local authority. If in doubt, carry out a Land Registry search.  The reason I say this is because I once pursued a successful claim arising out of a tripping accident on a footpath in a town.  It transpired that the footpath was the responsibility of a chain restaurant on another street!