10 December 2020

As the cold weather starts to creep in, Battens' Personal Injury team outlines how to make a personal injury claim if it is unfortunately caused by the winter weather.

If there has been a particularly harsh winter, we often see a rise in both road traffic claims relating to the wintery conditions and claims for people slipping on ice either on the public highway or within areas that are controlled by their employers and where gritting or other measures should have been taken to minimise risk.

What is involved in the process of making a personal injury claim?

The process of making a personal injury claim differs depending on the severity of the injuries suffered. In claims for relatively minor injuries there is an online system where a claim can be submitted to a Defendant and/or their insurer.

Fairly short and very strict time limits are imposed on the Defendant and/or their insurer to acknowledge, investigate and respond to claims.

For claims involving more severe injuries the process differs but there is still a protocol that must be followed by both parties which also sets out time limits for actions.

In both cases, the Claimant (in most cases the person who has suffered the illness or injury) is required to submit to the Defendant and or their insurer, certain information including the circumstances of the accident, details of the injuries or illness that has been suffered and details of the financial losses suffered. The Defendant’s insurer will investigate and decide whether or not to admit liability for the accident or development of the illness. The progress of the claim will depend on the Defendant’s stance at this stage.

What information does someone need to provide to their solicitor when making a personal injury claim?

A solicitor will require details of the exact date and circumstances of the accident, details of the third party (i.e. the person or organisation that the Claimant feels was responsible for their accident or illness), details of any witnesses, details of any investigations into the incident (such as whether the incident was reported to the police or the Health and Safety Executive), details of the injuries or illness suffered and treatment received for those injuries, details of any medical treatment received and any financial losses caused by the injuries or illness, together with proof of those losses where possible.

If an accident is caused by bad weather, what are your rights when making a personal injury claim?

Your rights when making a personal injury claim differ depending on the circumstances of the claim.

There is a perception that accidents caused by bad weather are considered by the Courts to be ‘Acts of God’, which means that the injured party may not be able to recover compensation.

This is true for certain cases, but in other cases there may be circumstances which may lead to compensation being successfully recovered.

For example, in road traffic accidents, a driver may not have adapted their driving to the extreme weather - they may have been driving too fast for the conditions, in which case, if they cause an accident, the injured party may well be able to make a successful claim.

Similarly, if a tree falls as a result of high winds and injures someone, it may be possible to establish that if the tree had been subject to regular inspection it would have been identified as rotten or dangerous and would have been felled. If that had happened, then the tree would not have fallen in the high wind and caused injury. Therefore the owner of the tree (or the land on which the tree is/was situated) would be liable to compensate the injured person.

As with all personal injury claims, an injured party would need to identify who was responsible for their accident (the Defendant), establish that the Defendant had a duty of care to the injured party and had breached that duty, demonstrate that the accident could have been foreseen (and therefore was preventable) and prove that the injuries were caused by the accident in question.

Who is responsible for making sure public areas are safe in icy conditions?

In most cases, the relevant Local Authority (Council) is responsible for making sure public areas are safe. However, some areas that appear to be “public” may in fact be owned or managed by private individuals or organisations. Ownership and therefore responsibility can often be established by the injured party reporting an accident to the entity they assume would be responsible for the location of the accident. If not, your lawyer will be able to assist and advise you on this.

For more information and advice contact our Personal Injury and Industrial Disease team on 0800 652 8373.