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Personal injury claims in winter

View profile for Cristina Parla
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Our Personal Injury team recently took part in #SolicitorChat, a conversation on Twitter where solicitors answer questions on a set topic.  A recent one covered personal injury claims in winter, and we thought our answers would provide a useful guide.

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

Not necessarily a rise in personal injury claims but accident circumstances are sometimes more specific to bad weather. For example, puddles, leaves and ice obscuring potholes. Another example, drivers failing to take into account more dangerous road conditions.

Talk us through the process of making 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 (‘no win, no fee’).

To start any claim, details must be sent to the defendant who usually has 3 months to investigate and decide on liability. If liability is admitted, medical evidence will be obtained in support of the injury suffered before settlement talks can begin.

If liability is denied then the process is more complex. Before anything can happen, the denial of liability will need to be investigated by your solicitor and this process will delay the progress of the claim.

What information does someone need to provide to their solicitor when making a personal injury claim?

Date of accident, injury suffered and accident circumstances so an assessment can be made on whether the claim has sufficient prospects to be pursued.

If the claim arises out of trip/slip accident, it helps to provide contemporaneous evidence such as photographs and measurements of the defect. In any personal injury claim, witness evidence is useful.

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

There is no automatic right to compensation even if an accident occurred because of bad weather. Any claim pursued will only be successful if the defendant has been negligent and/or in breach of their statutory duty.

To put that into context, a puddle of rain may disguise a pothole, but the claim will only succeed if it can be shown that the defect was dangerous and the defendant did not implement a reasonable system of inspection and maintenance.

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

It depends on who owns the area where the accident occurred. A local authority is responsible for the roads and footpaths inside its area of control, but some areas are privately owned.

It is not always obvious so your solicitor can perform a Land Registry search which should hopefully reveal the identity of the defendant. The law applied depends on who owns the land.

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