Compensation for client injured by pothole

My client was an elderly lady who walked with the aide of a 2-wheeled walking frame when making the short trip from her home to the main shopping street in Felixstowe, Suffolk.

As she walked along the pavement, the wheel of her walking frame struck a pothole and got caught, causing my client to fall forwards on to her frame and hit her head badly on the floor. She suffered severe cuts and bruising as well as shock. She was dazed for some time afterwards.

We presented a claim to the local council responsible for the maintenance of the footpath. The claim was based on a breach of The Highways Act 1980 which effectively requires local authorities to implement a reasonable system of inspecting and maintaining their roads and footpaths.  This particular pothole was on a stretch of footpath which was driven over by hundreds of cars each day as it provided access to one of the town’s main car parks.

We had evidence to show that the pothole had been there for some months. The council denied liability on the basis that it inspected this footpath every two months and the last time this area was inspected, there was no pothole deep enough to warrant repair.

We disputed that but also advanced the claim further by claiming that the frequency of inspection was not high enough given the location of this footpath (immediately before a car park) and its close proximity to the town centre. On that basis, inspections should have been weekly or, at least, monthly.

The council still denied liability and so proceedings had to be issued at the Ipswich County Court. Prior to trial, the council’s solicitors conceded that the council should have admitted liability earlier. We were then able to negotiate a settlement directly with the council’s solicitors but not without 3 years of representation.

This just goes to show that you will invariably have a tough fight on your hands in pursuing compensation for injuries caused by defective and dangerous roads, footpaths and public places. Therefore, it is most important that you contact a local lawyer as soon as possible to obtain evidence of the defect but also to ensure that you are as well equipped as possible when taking on these organisations and their insurers.

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