Q: When walking my dog across the road after dark, I tripped over a heavy iron drain cover on the kerbside that had been flipped open, leaving a gaping hole. I broke my hip in the fall and the dog got free, ran across the road, and was hit by a car. He broke a hind leg in three places and spent several hours at the vets. As well as the inconvenience, pain and anxiety, I have incurred considerable expense, and loss of earnings as I am a self-employed driver. Annoyingly I saw the drain like this once before and manhandled it back into place and called the council, but they just said it was probably due to a big tractor going over it. Could I claim compensation?
A: All local councils have a legal responsibility under s58 of the Highways Act (1980) to maintain public roads and pavements to a safe standard and carry out regular inspections. As you have previously informed your local council that this drain cover has been dislodged, it is going to be very difficult for them to rely on the defence under the Highways Act, that they took such care, as was reasonably required, to secure that part of the highway.
It would be helpful if you have photographs of the dislodged drain cover. You should compile as much evidence as possible to support your claim and ask your neighbours if they can confirm the drain cover has previously been left open. The council’s records should confirm that the council were aware of the problem but failed to act by securing the drain cover.
To support your accident-related injuries, a medical report will be required from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in the first instance. All out of pocket expenses should be claimed, including the vet’s bill and your loss of income. A local personal injury lawyer can guide you through the process of making a claim for compensation.
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