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It’s an urban myth that you will be sued if you clear your path and someone slips and falls on the section that you’ve cleared. You might well be sued – but only by a fool. There is no liability in this situation on the ordinary householder. If you’re hit with a claim, pass the letter onto your building insurer and don’t worry about it any further.
There is a duty on the local council to grit under section 41(1)(A) of the Highways Act 1980, which states that “a highway authority are under a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow or ice.” But that duty is subject to proof of a reasonable system.
The council ought to have a policy for cold weather with a hierarchy of gritting from major roads downwards. The major arterial routes will be done first, then main roads and bus routes. It is highly unlikely that Acacia Avenue or Brookside Close will ever be gritted. By the time the council would be obliged to get around to clearing those sorts of roads, the snow will have melted. So if you slip on your way out of the cul-de-sac, then the prospects of your personal injury claim getting off the ground aren’t strong. But if you slip on snow on the pavement outside the butchers on your local high street, you may be on firmer ground, so to speak.
The workplace car park is covered by regulation 12(3) of the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and so employers are under a duty to ensure that all entrances, exits and traffic routes for vehicles and pedestrians are kept free from ice and snow as far as reasonably possible. Employers therefore must be proactive in taking account of weather forecasts and putting measures in place to include clearing snow, gritting surfaces and if necessary closing or diverting routes used by workers and visitors.
Employers do not have to remove every last trace of snow and ice from every part of the ground outside its premises, but employers should have the materials and resources to deal with the snow or ice and be able to carry out these measures. Employers should therefore have grit or gravel in store. The gritting should take place before workers arrive to work. The areas to focus on are car parks, delivery areas, main entrances and exits. If they fail to take such appropriate measures then they may find themselves liable to claims.
Schools and hospitals are employers as well as places where pupils and parents, patients and visitors routinely call. Those institutions must ensure that the paths and car parks are cleared.
At school, the car park and the paths between school buildings and from the main entrances are clear of snow and ice and gritted where appropriate. Children may have to be kept off the playground, but not out of the classroom.
At hospital, the main entrances and the car parks and the paths from the car parks to the entrances and between buildings must be gritted and cleared of snow. The duties will cover employees under the Workplace Regulations and visitors under section 2(2) of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957, which states that the duty of care owed by an occupier of premises to is a duty to take such care as in all the circumstances of the case is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there.
The same duties that apply at school and at hospital also apply to the local supermarket or DIY outlet or out of town retail park. The car parks and the pathways to and from the car parks and the shop entrances must be cleared and gritted.
So if you’ve been brought low by the snow this week, call Canter Levin & Berg. We can help you get back on your feet and get you the compensation that you deserve. We offer our clients a no win, no fee arrangement so that the case will not cost you a penny to bring and you will retain every penny of the amount that you are awarded. And if you come to us before the end of March, we’ll give you an Apple i-pad 3™ or an Apple i-pad™ mini once liability is accepted by the other side and we’ve received a supportive medical report.
We can see you in our City Centre office in Liverpool, in our office in Kirkby, or at your home if you can’t get out and about.