Highway tripping accidents are one of the most common causes of a tripping accident claim.
In a highway tripping claim photographs are often very important evidence. Why? Because it is necessary for the Claimant to prove that, at the time of the accident, the highway was in a dangerous condition. However, the lack of measurement photographs does not mean that a claim will fail.
Highway Tripping Claims: A Real Case-Study
Our client was walking across a badly maintained road when she caught her foot in a pothole, tripped and fell. Our client was helped up by her daughter and niece who were fortunately with her when she fell.
Within an hour of the fall her left foot had started to swell. Ice packs did not reduce the swelling. Our client therefore made her way to the local Accident & Emergency department. X-rays were carried out and a fracture of the left foot diagnosed. The left foot was placed in a plaster cast. The cast had to be worn for 6 weeks. During this time our client used crutches to move around.
Photographic evidence in highway tripping accident claims
Two weeks after the accident, our client contacted us for advice about making a claim for compensation. Having taken details of how the accident happened, we asked ‘Do you have any photographs of the pothole?’
Highway tripping claim photographs required: location and size
In a highway tripping claim we generally require two types of photographs:
- Photographs showing the location of the pothole or defect: these photos should include nearby landmarks so that the precise location of the defect can be identified
- Photographs showing the size and depth of the pothole: these photographs should ideally include a ruler showing the actual size of the defect. If a ruler is not available, placing a coin or some other object of an identified size in the photo can help to determine the size of the defect.
Inadequate Highway Tripping Claim Photographs: What Next?
Our client had a photograph showing the pothole. This was taken quite close-up and didn’t show the wider location. It was therefore difficult to precisely identify the location of the defect.
The photo did not include any measurements. It was not possible, from the photograph, to prove the actual size of the pothole.
The accident has been reported to the council before we were involved. The council had, quite rightly, repaired the pothole shortly after receiving the report. Unfortunately, this meant that, when we were instructed we were unable to obtain further photographs as evidence of the size of the defect.
No automatic right to compensation after a highway tripping claim
There is no automatic right to compensation following a trip or fall on a public path or road. In every case the injured person must prove that they were injured as a result of a dangerous defect. The Claimant must also prove that the defect arose because of the Highway Authority (usually the local council) failed to properly repair and maintain the highway.
Liability denied: what next?
We submitted our client’s claim to the local Highway Authority. Liability was denied. The Highway Authority refused the claim on the basis that there was no evidence of a dangerous defect. We had no photographs to prove the depth of the pothole.
Proving that the defect had been dangerous at the time of the accident
The Courts generally consider a defect to be dangerous if it in higher or deeper than 1 inch.
Our client advised us that the pothole had been at least 2 inches deep. The photographs that she had provided to us certainly showed a pothole but it was very difficult to assess, from the photograph, how deep it was..
Highway Authority Records
We requested copies of the council’s own repair documentation in respect of the work carried out to repair the pothole. Unfortunately, this did not make any reference to the size of the pothole.
The Highway Authority’s own procedures state that a defect in a road would be considered to be in need of repair if it was deeper than 4cm (around 1.5 inches). We argued that the very fact that the council had considered the pothole to be in need of repair supported the fact that it was at least 1.5 inches deep.
We also obtained statements from our client, her daughter and niece confirming how the accident occurred and information about size and position of the pothole.
A further statement from a neighbouring business owner provided evidence of the general bad state of the road at the time of the accident. This statement also confirmed that the potholes had been present for a number of years without being repaired.
Enough evidence to win the case?
We took the view that the evidence was supportive of our client’s case. We obtained independent medical evidence in respect of our client’s injury. The medical evidence confirmed that our client had made a very good recovery from her injury within a few months. The full evidence was submitted to the council and in the absence of an offer to settle, court proceedings were commenced.
Shortly after the commencement of court proceedings the council offered to settle the claim for injury for £3250.00 plus financial losses. We advised our client to reject this offer. We entered into negotiations with the council’s solicitors and shortly afterwards a final settlement of £4500 plus financial losses was agreed.
In a highway tripping accident claim photographs are important. We strongly recommend that both location and measured photographs are taken as soon as possible after an accident. Ideally photographs to support your claim should be taken before reporting the accident to the council. Once the defect is repaired it is not possible to take the photographs!
However, the lack of measured photographs showing the dimensions of the defect will not always cause a claim to fail. We recommend that you always take advice from a personal injury solicitor regarding the potential claim and the evidence required.