Summer seems to be a distant memory and as the temperatures drop throughout Autumn and Winter, the build-up of leaves is sadly all too often the cause of many accidents in and around Sheffield. When they are left on the ground to pile up, it often leads to the footpath surface becoming slippery and they can also hide any potential hazardous defects to the ground underneath, such as potholes or uneven pavement surfaces.
So, as we are often asked, can you make a personal injury claim if you slip on wet leaves or the hidden dangerous surface underneath and suffer an injury?
The simple answer is that it depends on the circumstances…
Unfortunately, a personal injury claim will be unlikely to succeed against a local authority if you slip on leaves lying on ground which a Council owns or maintains. The Courts have decided that it is unreasonable to expect a local authority to remove leaves from every single footpath and road, which understandably would be almost impossible. Although they have a responsibility to ensure that paths and highways are made and kept safe, in the event of an accident, the Highway Authority is judged by the Courts on a standard of what is “reasonably practicable.” The mere presence of leaves on a pavement which leads to the accident is unlikely to be enough in itself for a Court to find the local authority at fault. The Courts accept that it is not reasonably practicable for a Council to clear leaves from each and every road and footpath during the Autumn and Winter months.
However, if you suffer an accident on private land (for example land belonging to car parks, hotels, shops or leisure centres) the law imposes a higher duty on the owner of the land, under the Occupiers’ Liability Act of 1957, than it imposes on a local authority, but it is not straightforward.
A Court will look at each individual claim on its own merits and assess the facts and circumstances of the accident. They will decide whether or not the local authority or private land owner acted reasonably and would consider how long the leaves that caused the accident had been there for, whether there was a significant amount of obvious danger and whether the landowner or local authority had received any complaints from other members of the general public about the particular area shortly before the accident and had not acted upon the concerns.
In summary, if the accident occurs on privately owned land, the prospects of a successful claim are reasonable, depending on the circumstances. If it is on a road, footpath or other land owned and/or maintained by a Local Authority, then the chances of succeeding are low.
If you have suffered an accident due to slipping on leaves or a dangerous defect hidden beneath them and would like some advice about whether you can make a claim, call our expert Solicitors on 0114 218 4000 or email email@example.com.