Advice on legal matters - slipping on ice and your rights as a pedestrian

Woman holding knee having slipped on ice

The latest cold snap has resulted in people being injured while slipping on pavements when out and about.

It’s obvious why this happens – snow, ice and surface water are slippery.

But what is less obvious is what your legal rights are after these kinds of accidents and what the law says public or private organisations must do to protect you from weather-related hazards.

Here, we will present some common scenarios to help explain this complex issue.

If you slipped on an icy public footpath the council failed to grit

In all honesty, it is most likely that you will not be able to make a claim.

These types of cases are called public liability claims. It is unreasonable to say local authorities have been negligent for failing to make pavements immediately safer if they've been affected by sudden snow or ice during the night. Even if bad weather is predicted and/or prolonged, councils can use an argument of, resources versus priorities, and in general the courts are sympathetic to this. Each council has a priority list of the busiest roads which need to be cleared first.

Basically, not all paths, pavements and roads can be cleared at once and kept hazard free and therefore making a claim after falling is unlikely to be successful, no matter how bad the injuries caused.

If you slipped in an icy car park or at the entrance to a shop

These cases are known as occupier’s liability claims. They are different to public liability claims because they involve private individuals or businesses (occupiers) who must provide a safe environment for customers or suppliers – effectively anyone who is on their premises including their own staff.  An example of this type of claim is either a fall in a shopping centre car park or slip at a supermarket entrance. In an occupier’s liability claim the mere presence of snow or ice does not automatically mean the private owner or business is liable. To successfully settle an occupier's liability case, you need to prove the owner of the car park, shop or private path knew there was a hazard there but also that they failed to act.

Private owners/occupiers must also have a reasonable system of inspection that shows they are keeping on top of hazards on their land such as broken manhole covers or loose boundary walls and snow and ice would fall into this category too. So although it can be difficult to prove, especially when bad weather is sudden, you may be able to secure compensation for such an accident.

If you slipped on an icy path while working

Regulation 12 (3) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 shows an employer has to take all reasonable steps to prevent slips and trips. In the case of snow and ice this might include warm clothing or suitable footwear. So if your employer has failed in this duty then yes, you may be able to claim.

For an employee the rules are more straightforward - your employer should carry out a risk assessment so they can take steps to protect you from the hazards that bad weather brings, such as providing you with the right equipment.

Digby Brown has experience in this area.

We successfully argued a landmark ice slip case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Kennedy v Cordia involved a home carer who was injured after she slipped on an icy path while visiting a patient. We successfully argued Kennedy would not have fallen if her employer had provided her with appropriate footwear. This decision then set the bar for future safe working practice and was highlighted in the national media.

We also secured £5,000 for Mr X after he was similarly affected.

Some people who are injured while working are afraid to make a claim for fear their employer might sack them later. In terms of the law, making a compensation claim after you have been injured at work cannot be used as the reason to be fired. If your employer did that then they could be further held to account in an unfair dismissal case. For further assurance you can read more about your employment rights in our blog How to claim for an accident at work.

We’re here to help

A fall on the ice or snow can simply be embarrassing, cause bruising or result in severe injury. Digby Brown is here to help and where an organisation has been negligent (they have failed in their duty of care, even when they were aware of the potential danger) then they should be held accountable.

If nothing else, it will hopefully stop them continuing to do nothing about these types of hazards and someone else won't suffer the same or worse consequences.

Remember – Digby Brown has a proven track record of helping thousands of people who have been injured as a consequence of organisations failing to minimise the dangers of bad weather.

So to consider your options contact us. Our Legal Enquiry Team can be called seven days a week and are here to help.