Hundreds of joggers are injured each year when they trip over an obstacle or a pothole in the ground. Sometimes the property owner is responsible for the incident, and sometimes they are not. Unless the jogger was behaving in a particularly careless manner, the speed at which he or she was travelling has no bearing on the claim. The only question is whether the property owner had a legal duty to keep their property in the proper state of repair, and whether they breached that duty. Who is responsible for maintaining the property? Who is responsible depends on the type of property the jogger was travelling over when they tripped and fell. For public land, Councils and local highways agencies are obliged under the Highways Act 1980 to remedy any defects in public highway land that may cause accident or injury. If the trip accident happens on private land, then the relevant law is the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. Both Acts impose similar duties on the property owner for inspecting and maintaining their property. Is the property owner responsible for the trip and fall injury? The first thing to consider with a trip accident is that rough or uneven ground surfaces are a normal part of living. A property owner cannot be held responsible for someone tripping over an obstacle that any rational individual should expect to find on their property, such as a tree root on woodland. However, a property owner may be liable for the trip and fall accident if one of the following conditions is true: • The property owner caused the trip hazard to be underfoot; or • The property owner knew about the trip hazard but did nothing to repair or remove it; • The property owner should have known about the trip hazard because someone looking after their property in a reasonable manner would have discovered and fixed the hazard. Liability in trip accidents is often decided by common sense. The matter hinges on whether the property owner took reasonable and regular steps to keep their visitors safe from harm. Defences to a trip claim Councils and local highway agencies have a special defence to trip compensation claims: • They regularly inspect and maintain the area where the incident occurred, and the accident happened between inspections. • The defect was not dangerous enough to warrant action. There is no rule of law for the type of defect that is "dangerous enough" to support a compensation claim. However, a claim may have a greater chance of success if the obstacle that causes the incident has a depth of at least one inch. This can be hole with a depth of one inch, or a paving stone that has risen by at least one inch. Each claim turns on its own facts. A good personal injury solicitor will inspect a variety of evidence to show that the property owner has failed in their legal duty to protect all users of the pavement or property. This evidence might include photographs, witness statements and the property owner's inspection and maintenance logs.
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