Proving council liability in tripping accident compensation claims


Succeeding with claims for personal injury compensation isn’t always easy and although we take as much hassle out of the claims process as possible, some types of personal injury claim prove much harder to succeed with than others.  One such type is public liability compensation claims, usually after a fall or trip on a damaged section of footpath, a trip in a pothole or on a broken section of a local authority owned road.  In order to win claims for slipping and tripping injury compensation, claimants must gather as much evidence as possible to help their solicitor force the defending insurers to admit liability.

What the law says about proving liability

Claiming personal injury compensation after a tripping accident isn’t easy due to precedents set by the courts, which has made defending such claims fairly easy for local authorities.  This is because the courts have decided in previous judgements that the onus to succeed in such claims should rest on the claimant.  The courts have found that to prove liability in tripping accident compensation claims, claimants must show that a local authority or landowner responsible for the site of their accident had known that a hazard was present before the client was injured.  Furthermore, they must demonstrate that the local authority had reasonable time to inspect that area of pavement/highway and should have repaired the hazard and removed the risk of someone suffering an injury as a result.  The basic rule is that claimants need to prove that the hazard responsible for their accident had been in situ for a minimum of at least 6 months before their accident.  Although this can be a hard thing to prove, it can be done and it helps to know what to do after an accident as this will help you to ensure that you have the right evidence to support your claim.

Reporting, recording and gathering evidence

Precedent states that any local authority highways departments should (in most cases) inspect every section of their roads and footpaths once every 6 months.  An inspector should record the roads and pavements that they have inspected and the local authority should hold a record of the inspections that they have carried out.  If when defending a claim for slip and trip personal injury compensation, a highways department can provide a report that shows that they inspected the area where a claimant was injured within the last 6 months and no defect was found, it is most likely that the claimant will not succeed with their claim.  Whilst this will see a claimant not win any compensation, they will not face any costs.

However, just because a council provide an inspection report, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be held liable.  In some cases, courts have found that the inspection regime of a local authority was inadequate.  For example, in one instance a court Judge hearing a claim for compensation against a local authority was of the opinion that the inspection was inadequate and although they had checked the pavements, they hadn’t done so thoroughly and were therefore liable for the claim that they faced.  This was because the inspection was a simple drive by inspection of the streets and estates, rather than an on foot walk through.  On some streets, a drive by inspection may be adequate, but on others a hazardous section of footpath could be obstructed from view if it was not walked.  Of course, the local authority welcome reports of dangerous and broken footpaths and can act on such reports.  Although it has been reported that there is a backlog of pothole repairs, the onus to repair a defect quickly is still there.

As with all accidents, it is important to report and record your accident correctly.  Don’t worry if you don’t know how to do this as we can advise you how to make sure that you do report the details to the right people quickly.  When you report a tripping accident and injuries to a local authority, they should give you a report log number and may well send you an incident report form.  Before sending this in, we think the best advice is to advocate hiring a specialist personal injury solicitor to run your claim, as this will give you the best chance of succeeding with a claim for personal injury compensation.  However, in order to maximise your prospects of succeeding with your claim, there are things you can do to help your solicitor win your claim.

Local witnesses

When it comes to proving that a hazard has been in situ for a sufficient period of time to enable you to prove that the local authority are liable for your accident, there may well be people out there who can act as a witness to the hazard that caused your injuries.  For example, if a pothole has been on a footpath by a row of houses, it is likely that the residents of those houses will know how long it has been there for.  Also, one of them may have reported it to the council already.  As an injured claimant, you should approach these residents and ask if they know about the pothole and how long it has been there.  If one of them does, you could ask them if they would be willing to act as a hazard witness.  This isn’t a witness to the accident, but to state that the hazard has been in situ for a certain period of time, where it is and how big it is.  When tripping accidents occur in shopping areas or by other public buildings, you should approach shop staff and ask them the same, or a postman if you see one.  Most people are angry about broken pavements and are more than willing to act as a witness to support a claimant as they know that a successful claim will help to make sure that the local authority speed up their inspection and repair regime.

We understand that it is hard to know if you whether you have a valid claim for tripping accident compensation and with this in mind, why not contact us to discuss your situation.  We have years of experience in working on such claims and expert solicitors with a fantastic track record of winning claims for tripping accident victims.  Contact us and make your claim today.

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  1. Hello,

    In January, I was walking my dog along a public footpath and tripped over a tree root that had broken up through the pathway. I had fractured a bone in my hand and was in a splint for 4 weeks. After w few weeks, the council repaired the path by putting chippings over the root so no one would fall over it again. The way the root had grown, it must have been there for a very long time, which I assume should have been noticed and repaired before this accident.

    I lodged a complaint with the council, who passed the complaint to their insurance company/solicitor. I have received a letter today saying that the council are not liable for the broken pathway and my claim was unsuccessful. As they have taken steps to stop anyone tripping again, is this not accepting liability? They have repaired the same pathway in the past as there were loose paving stones.

    Am I now entitled to take the claim to an independant solicitor and is it likely to be successful if their solicitor has said they are not liable?

    Many Thanks

    • It is not uncommon for claimants attempting to pursue a claim without specialist legal representation to be ‘turned away’ and given a denial of liability by a defendant insurer. Whilst that does not always mean that the defendant has taken the view that as the claimant is not represented that they can ‘get away with it’, it is sometimes the case that a specialist Solicitor is able to overturn the defence and prove that the defendant was liable.

      In your case, the best thing to do at this stage would be to allow our specialist tripping accident Solicitors to consider your claim in detail. We will need to see the photographs you have and ideally, any correspondence that you have relating to the claim.

  2. How much time do I have to make a claim? The accident happened on Friday evening and now I am in a cast. I will see specialist on Wednesday. I twisted my ankle and it looks like something wrong with a hole in the pavement. I took some photos the day after accident.

    • You have a claim limitation period of 3 years from the date of the accident, so you are well within that. However, it is always wise to start your claim at the earliest opportunity as the supporting evidence that our specialist Solicitors will need to give you the best chance of succeeding with your claim will be freshly available.

      It is good to hear that you have taken photographs of the pothole in question.

  3. I tripped on uneven paving in November and hurt both of my knees. I ended up having to go to A & E to have them x rayed, luckily i escaped with no breaks but had a sprained tendon in my knee which was very painful. It took weeks before i could walk on it without pain and even now it hurts if i walk for more than about half hour and i have been unable to return to the gym since then. I also suffer from anxiety and PTSD and had to cancel counselling sessions becuase i was unable to travel far. I documented everything, took pictures of the pavement (right outside a busy post office) and several pictures of my knees over a few days. I also provided the A & E details. The pavement has not been fixed and i warned the council that should an elderley person fall here the results could be very serious. The council have until 16th of this month to produce their findings and accept/deny liability. What happens if the 16th comes around and the council haven’t got in touch with the claim handlers?

    • I assume that you have a specialist Solicitor representing you in your claim against them? If not, it would be wise to instruct a suitable specialist to act for you on a No Win No Fee basis.

      If the council fail to disclose their findings by the deadline, a specialist Solicitor would issue a further deadline of around 1 month. If the council again failed to disclose their findings by the 2nd deadline a specialist Solicitor would then issue court proceedings to bring them to court where a judge can oblige them to cooperate.

  4. in 2017 in March I had a trip and fell in a bus lane that had depressed due to heavy bus usage .I found myself a solicitor and just 2 weeks ago was informed that my case had been dropped on a barristers say so .I broke my nose and damaged my eye area which had to be glued back together as well as other injuries even being unconscious.The barrister says that it would have been easier if it had been a pothole instead .I am very upset about all of this and am wondering if this is it now ,Thankyou

    • If counsels opinion is that your claim is likely to fail, it is unlikely that a new Solicitor or new opinion would reach a different outcome.

  5. My daughter who was 9 at the time , (2016) went out on her scooter and the scooter hit a very uneven part of the path she was on resulting in a severe leg break , her leg from the ankle down was facing the wrong direction due to the bones being completely broke away from the main one . She was immediately admitted to hospital and was operated on , she had fixcetor on andcstsyed in hospital for 3 weeks , she was wheelchair bound for a further 4 , and was off school for over 3 months …… I just want to know if I could claim ?

    • Yes, you can make a compensation claim for your daughter for this accident – but you will only succeed if certain criteria are met. As this is essentially a tripping accident claim, we will need photographic evidence of the defect that caused her to fall from her scooter, ideally with measurements of the height or depth of the hazard. Do you have these? Can more be taken?

      Importantly, you are well within the legal time limit for making a claim for compensation. With claims involving children that have had an accident, they will enjoy a longer maximum claim limitation period. The norm for those over the age of 18 at the date of an injury is a claim period of 3 years. However, with those under the age of 18 at the date of injury, the law affords them up to their 21st birthday to pursue a claim for personal injury compensation.

      Given the severity of injury sustained by your daughter, we would be very happy to help you find out more about a possible claim for compensation. Please call us on 01225430285 Mon-Fri to speak with our helpful staff. Our people know your rights and will be able to advise you as to whether or not you can make a claim for compensation. You can also make an online enquiry and request us to call you.

  6. Hi,

    I tripped down when I was coming out of my work place, I hurt both of my knees. There are not enough lights, by 5.30 in the evening it gets completely dark. It is better for everyone to have proper lighting in that place as I am certain people might get hurt like me. I am not sure of how to take it further. Please contact!

    • We would be delighted to speak with you to find out a little more about your accident and what has been recorded in terms of your injury.

      Please use the ‘start a claim’ option provided on our website to submit some contact details to us and we’ll call you to explain your rights and discuss a potential claim for compensation.

  7. My Mother recently fell in Plymouth town centre. The cause of the trip was raised paving in an area close to a tree. The result of the fall was a broken arm, fractured thumb, stitches needed to an injury to her eyebrow, facial and leg abrasions and bruising. She had to spend time in hospital. She is in her Eighties.

    The police attended and concurred that the pavement slabs were dangerous and took photo’s, my mother also claims that they phoned the council there and then to inform them that someone had suffered an injury.

    My mother has contacted a local law firm and someone came out to visit her and initially told her that she had a good case for a compensation claim. They have subsequently visited the site where the accident took place and the solicitors view was that it may prove difficult to prove that the council were liable.

    By all accounts the paving needs to raised by at least 1 inch and the solicitor tells her that she needs to identify the exact spot where she fell. She would have been in considerable pain and shock at the time of her fall and I doubt that she was looking around to take measurements as to where she actually tripped. She does does however claim that it was the paving that caused her to fall.

    I don’t know if the solicitor has contacted the police to obtain statements from the officers who attended and to request any photo’s which were taken at the time. My mother does tell me that he has contacted the council and he states that they had no knowledge of the incident despite my mothers claims that one of the officers phoned the council whilst they were in attendance.

    I had pre- warned my mother that the council will, in the first instance, deny any hint of liability. I am of the opinion that with the correct amount insistence that there is reasonable cause for a claim that council will have to reevaluate their stance. If liability can be proven I’m certain that the claim for injury could , and should, be substantial, which is another good reason for the council not accept liability in the hope that she will simply give up her claim and go away.

    In short, The police who attended were of the opinion that the paving was the probable cause of the fall, the paving is raised by the required amount of 1 inch, photographic evidence should be available to support this.

    It breaks my heart that people are claiming tens of thousands of pounds for slipping on a grape and bruising their arm whilst others are suffering terrible injuries, and in this case possibly life threatening, and receiving nothing in compensation due to the fact that the likes of local authorities and insurance companies can simply tell them that they have no claim, safe in the knowledge that litigation would be far beyond their means and that would, in most cases, be the only way to force their arms.

    I do look forward to your thoughts on this matter and thank you for your time.

    Kind regards

    Nigel Hardman

  8. I recently tripped over a broken pavement, the pavement got mended a few day after. The council have denied liability. How ever I took photos of the pavement with the date of the accident. Can I still pursue this.

    • I would very much like to view the photographs you have taken of the broken pavement that caused you to fall. Please can you email these to me at: along with a full description of the accident and the height/depth of the tripping hazard listed. If you have any correspondence from the council, please forward the same to me. I realise that the council have denied liability at this stage. It maybe a strong defence, but without viewing the photographs it would be hard to offer a view on that.

  9. I have solicitors dealing with a claim for me but I have been asked if anyone else has reported the defect that made me trip. It was a defective drain and chunks were broken off of the concrete around it. When I tripped, I went straight onto the pavement, starting on my right side then my body twisted to the left side.

    I have been asking around but no one else has come forward to say that they had reported the hazard. The Council involved say that the area was inspected last year but it may not have been there then? I don’t know what to do. I’m an old age pensioner (66yrs old).

    • In cases of tripping accident compensation, the courts have allowed local authority highways departments what they say is a reasonable time frame to inspect their highways/pavements and make repairs of any actionable defects or hazards found. As such, the courts have ruled that local authority highways inspectors should check the pavements and roads within their remit at least every 6 months. To that end, if the council can provide an inspection report that shows that an area was inspected within the past 6 months with no defect present, it becomes very hard to succeed with a claim against them.

      In such circumstances, the claimant will then need to locate an independent witness to the defect or hazard – not someone who saw the accident, but was aware of the hazard and reported it to the council – thus proving that their inspection was inadequate.

      Have you knocked doors of the properties adjacent to the hazard? The other option you could employ would be to run some searches of the area on Google Streetview – the images will be dated and if you can see the hazard/defect in situ 6 months or more before you fell, you could print those off and hand the same to your Solicitors.

  10. I live in N.i and tripped and fractured two bones in my left wrist an two ribes
    The accident happened at an inspection chamber which is not level with the contour of the surface and the tarmac has broke away from the top of the main hole but both the water service and the roads service denie ownership yet this loco was incorperated by adoption by roads service when they carriedout repairs to main road a number of years ago
    The loco of the accident was a lane way that gave excess for residents to the rear of their property from the main road
    Any advice would be helpfull in this matter

    • The law in Northern Ireland differs to that of England & Wales (and also Scotland) and personal injury compensation claims within the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland are processed and funded differently to the rest of the UK. As such, we would recommend that you seek the advice of a specialist Solicitor working within the Northern Ireland legal system.

  11. I had a fall on a pavement that was badly cracked and sticking up and hurt my knee. I made a claim against the council and they said they were not liable because they had a regular inspection. However, the inspection forms they sent me made no reference to the area in question. I have sent details to Thompson and Slater Gordon who say they can’t act but do not say why. Since the fall the pavement area in question was repaired within a couple of weeks and is now smooth tarmac but the same pavement has several more areas that required repair (approximately 10 or more separate areas that were highlighted in yellow paint) which were all highlighted at the same time and would not have all come up for repair at the same time, therefore regular inspections cannot happen. There are still blocks sticking up in the same area that I fell that have had nothing done to them and they have been like this since my fall over 2 years ago! I have had to have physio and attend hospital for my knee since the accident and still have a lump on the knee that the specialist says will always be there as it was caused by the trauma. This means that I no longer feel comfortable wearing skirts. Do you think I should be able to claim against the council?

    • The courts have previously found that it is unreasonable to expect a local authority to ensure that there are no hazards whatsoever on their footpaths. Therefore, they have ruled that as long as a local authority have a reasonable inspection regime in place that involves checking and identifying actionable defects for repair they will not be liable should someone have an accident.

      The only way that you are likely to succeed now – given that the claim has already failed – is to be able to demonstrate that the inspection carried out was not sufficient or that it was inadequate. Do you know if the inspection of the area where you fell was done on foot or via a drive-by inspection?

      • From the lengthy report they sent to demonstrate their ‘on foot’ inspection there was nothing to indicate that this area had been inspected at all. I asked them where it was and they indicated a page that was not the correct area and in fact was at the other end of the road. As i said they had about 10 different areas they marked up for repair at the same time all along the road!

  12. I had an accident at work while working for a local government authority. They have admitted liability, my solicitor has sent them compensation details but they have not been back in touch. She extended the deadline because apparently the case worker has left and it was handed over to somebody else. But I still have no offer and there is only a few days left until the deadline. Can anybody advise me in what is going on, I don’t really fancy going down the court route are they with holding evidence or just burying there heads.

    • If the defendant is not responding within the standard time frame, it is usual practice for the claimant Solicitor to offer an extension to the deadline and await response. If the defendant continues to fail to cooperate and respond as per the law, the only option is for a Solicitor to issue proceedings and bring the defendant before a court as the court has the legal authority to force them to disclose information, decide upon a settlement and ensure payment.

      • Ok so I’ve still had no answer for a settlement so I guess my solicitor is going to start court action. If this is the case can they just make one offer instead of the 3?

        • If the matter goes to court, a Judge will decide the value of the claim based on evidence from both sides of the claims process – if the two sides are unable to agree mutually.

  13. Hello. My teenage son (Joe has autism/learning disabilities) tripped over some rusty metal fence protruding onto a public footpath. He suffered cuts, grazes and hurt his wrist, the incident upset him very much. I put in a claim (Reading borough council) for Joe but have now received a decision telling us to redirect the claim to the Landowner. The reason and information they give me contradicts information I have from emails etc. Your advice would be very much appreciated. Thankyou.

    • Have you instructed a specialist personal injury compensation Solicitor to act in this case? If not, contact us and let us put the details of Joe’s accident to one of our specialist tripping accident compensation Solicitors. Our specialist Solicitors will be able to conduct a land registry search to locate the correct landowner and therefore defendant in this claim if it is shown not to be Reading Borough Council.

      When claiming compensation, the claim must be brought against the correct landowner and it would appear that Reading Borough Council are denying that it is they who own or manage the accident locus in this case.

      If you would like to speak with us about this and get some further help, please call us on 01225430285 or fill in a claim form on our site and we’ll contact you to discuss this in greater detail.

  14. A friend of mine fell in a car pub car park sustaining facial injuries requiring hospital treatment. She also had to have 5 days off work due to the injuries . Should she report the incident to the local authority as this should have been re[ported under RIDDOR and can she request a copy of the RIDDOR report

    Also do you think she has a claim

    • Whether or not your friend has a viable claim for tripping accident compensation will depend on what caused her to trip and whether or not the cause would be deemed to be sufficiently dangerous to be able to hold the defendant liable. In order for us to be able to advise on this, we would need sight of photographic evidence of the hazard that caused your friend to trip so that we could then ascertain whether or not it meets the criteria needed to warrant a claim for compensation.

      There are other issues to consider that could weaken or improve the prospects of success with any claim that may follow. For example, was the matter properly reported to the Pub in question and did they make a note of this in writing (accident book)? When presenting at Hospital was your friend impaired due to alcohol? Being drunk does not preclude one from being able to make a claim for compensation but it can be seen as contributory negligence.

      Please forward any photographs to us via: with a brief description of what happened so that we can evaluate the hazard responsible and then advise further as to whether or not a claim for tripping accident compensation can be made.

      With regards to the RIDDOR reporting of this matter, it would be a wise idea to contact RIDDOR directly to discuss with them as to whether this was reported or should have been reported.

  15. I am claiming against Knowsley council. I tripped on a pothole and broke my ankle. They have been in touch and said they will not admit liability they say the area was inspected on 17th December 2015 and at the stage the defect was not apparent I broke it in March I have medical records and proof of pothole will I be eligible for a claim.

    • David

      In your case, the council have raised what is known as a Section-58 defence. This defence is a commonly used one by highways departments when facing claims for compensation for tripping accident claims.

      In previous cases, the courts have stated that it is fair for local authorities to be expected to ensure that their pavements and highways are safe for use. The courts have recognised that local authorities should have a reasonable time frame to identify and repair any hazards and that to succeed with a claim for compensation, a claimant must demonstrate that a hazard was sufficiently large and in situ for a sufficiently long period to make it an actionable claim.

      In your case, the local authority are stating that the defect was not present or was too small to be repaired when inspected in the December and have rejected your claim.

      This does not however, mean that you must accept this and give up. Have you been liaising with the council directly or have you had a specialist injury compensation Solicitor working on this for you? In many cases, we find that when people have tried handling a claim themselves, they reach the stalemate that you have – a denial of liability.

      Over the years, we have successfully proven that potholes or defects in pathways have been present for many months – far before the local authorities claimed that they’d inspected an area. We can find section-58 hazard witnesses – people who live in the area where the hazard was situated and are willing to be a witness to the fact that the pothole was present for many months. We have also been able to demonstrate that the inspection regimes used by the highways departments have been inadequate and therefore not fit for purpose and had denials of liability overturned in to admissions.

      I suggest that you contact us by email – and list your contact information and provide the photographs etc that you have. We’ll then get in touch to give you our view, with a hope of being able to instruct one of our specialist tripping accident compensation solicitors to take this further for you.

      We look forward to hearing from you.


      Ian Morris

Direct2Compensation Personal Injury Claims

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