Trips and slips on public highways.

Trips and slips on public highways.

17th February 2012

I have tripped over an uneven paving slab and fallen onto my left side hurting my hip. Can I make a claim?


Under Section 41 Highways Act 1980 your local council have a duty to maintain the highways and keep them safe from any hazards that may cause a member of the public to trip or fall. This duty extends to pedestrians, motorists, cyclists and horse riders.

What constitutes a ‘defect’?

‘Defects’ include raised or cracked paving stones, pot holes, snow and ice and broken drainage grids.

What do I have to prove in order to bring a claim?

You need to prove that the highway was not safe for users and that the accident was caused by the dangerous condition of the highway.

What is a public highway?

It is a highway over which every member of the public has a free right of passage. It includes public streets, roads, pavements, footpaths, walkways, cycle tracks and bridleways.

What is classed as ‘dangerous’?

When deciding whether something is dangerous, one must consider the size, position and nature of the defect. As a general rule, defects have to measure an inch or more in height or depth.

Does the council have a defence?

Under Section 58 Highways Act 1980, the council can defend a claim if they can prove that they received no prior complaints and carried out reasonable inspections of the highway. The council usually keep records of their inspections and complaints and would rely on these in support of their defence.

What if I was partly to blame?

You can still bring a claim, but your compensation may be reduced.

What should I do after my accident?

  • Obtain witness details: A witness may have complained about the defect previously with no action being taken or be able to say how long the defect has been there. With this evidence, you can then overcome the council’s defence.
  • Photographs: We need to identify the location of the accident, the dimensions of the defect and the condition of the pavement at the time of the accident. Take photographs with clear measurements.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible: Go to your GP or hospital explaining fully how and where your injuries were sustained.

Should I report my accident to the council?

Although it is important that repair work is carried out, it is also imperative that proper evidence of the defect is obtained before repairs are carried out. We recommend that you seek legal advice before you contact the council.