A trip to the law courts

YOU AND YOUR RIGHTS How do you claim if you fall foul of a cracked pavement? Wendy James has some advice

You're happily walking along a footpath when you trip on a raised paving stone, hitting your head as you fall. You spend several hours in casualty and end up with a clean bill of health but a nasty black eye. Can you seek damages, and from whom?

It is vital to collect evidence immediately. Have photographs taken of your injuries and the accident site. Use a matchbox or coin to show the scale of unevenness of the pavement. More than two centimetres goes against maintenance guidelines. Get a GP to confirm your injuries in writing.

There are three courses of action you can take:

Ring the complaints line of your local council's environmental services department (listed in the phone directory) to find out who is responsible for the footpath. For a claim form send a sae to Clifford Howell, vice- president of the Pedestrians' Association, 2 Thicket Avenue, Fishponds, Bristol BS16 4DH. He has had nearly 20 years' experience and can usually tell whether compensation is likely. His help is free (though pounds 15 membership of the group is worthwhile as you get useful advice leaflets). Send the form and copies of evidence to the local authority or company's insurers.

In complicated cases, involving serious injuries for example, Mr Howell suggests using a specialist solicitor, as does the Citizens' Advice Bureau. The Law Society's Accident Line (freephone 0500 19 29 39) will put you in touch with a local solicitor who will give a free half-hour consultation about compensation and likelihood of success. If you don't qualify for legal aid, make a conditional fee agreement (you pay your solicitor only if you win) and take out an pounds 85 after-the-event insurance policy. This covers you for up to pounds 100,000 costs should you lose.

If you cannot afford insurance, pursue the matter yourself through the small claims court, but proving negligence can be difficult. You have a better chance against utility companies than a local authority, but if a company decides to fight, it can ask for the case to be heard in the court nearest its HQ - which could be miles from where you live. In Mr Howell's experience, you have most hope of success if you can prove that warning signs were inadequate or statutory inspections of the site were flouted.

Each year, more than 300 people die and an estimated three million are injured by falls on cracked, slippery or badly maintained pavements. Only one in five people attempt to seek compensation, even though they may have needed medical treatment for their injuries. But it could be worth it.

Pedestrians' Association, 126 Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4JQ (0171- 490 0750).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy