If you are injured while walking, jogging or riding on a public footpath, you might be unsure what to do next. Who is responsible for maintaining public footpaths? Do you have any legal rights to make a compensation claim for your injury?
We’ve answered several frequently asked questions about injuries on public footpaths and public place injury claims, known as public liability claims.
Injured on a public footpath
Tripping on a footpath can result in injuries ranging from broken bones, head injuries or spinal injuries. Local councils are typically responsible for upgrading and repairing residential footpaths. To make a successful public place injury claim against council, you need to establish your injuries were due to negligence, such as a failure to repair a fault, on the council’s behalf.
How do I claim against my local council for an injury?
Public liability claims require successfully proving your injuries were the result of the responsible person, business or organisation’s negligence. Proving negligence in the case of a public footpath injury is particularly tricky as local councils are heavily protected under the relevant laws.
This often means that there must have been blatant negligence on behalf of the council to make a successful compensation claim after being injured on a public footpath. For example, if the council knew about a hazard and had failed to address it.
As footpaths are classed as a public area, there is a legal expectation that you are taking due care while walking, riding or running. This means that contributory negligence is taken into account — if your own behaviour or negligence contributed to your fall and resulting injury, your compensation payment could be reduced according to how fault is split between you and the council. For example, if you were distracted looking at your mobile phone you may be found partially at fault for an injury.
It’s always best to seek legal advice as soon as possible after you’ve been injured, including on a public footpath. A public liability lawyer will be able to assess your situation and advise you of your legal options.
What can I claim compensation for?
Generally, if you were injured on a public footpath, you can make a compensation claim for your physical and psychological injuries and losses. Compensation can be for both past and future losses and can include:
- Medical and hospital costs;
- Loss of income;
- Pain and suffering;
- Help you received at home, whether paid or unpaid.
The compensation you receive is based on the severity of your injuries and how they have impacted your life.
What to do if you were injured on a public footpath
- If you are able, take photos of the footpath and surrounding area to document the hazard / condition of the site and what caused the accident. If possible, include something in the picture that demonstrates the size of the defect or hazard;
- Keep a record of medical reports that detail your injuries and the treatment required;
- Keep copies of medical receipts and invoices;
- Try to find out if the local council was aware of the defect and whether any prior complaints had been made to the council about the hazard (local Facebook pages or speaking to locals may help); and
- Seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Injured in public? Shine Lawyers can help
If you have been injured on a public footpath or in a public place, get in touch with Shine Lawyers’ Public Liability Claims experts. Our dedicated team have helped clients seek compensation against local councils and other organisations and can advise you of your rights and entitlements.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: May 3, 2021.