Being cramped up at home during COVID-19 lockdown has caused more people than ever before to take up walking as their daily dose of exercise. Those who don’t live in the vicinity of a park or green space may be forced to simply walk around their neighbourhoods, which means many people are experiencing more interaction with footpaths than they may have if they ordinarily exercised at a gym or fitness centre.
With local government employees experiencing increased pressure due to work from home requirements, improvements to footpaths may not be identified or actioned as repaired as they should be, which may lead to an increase in accidents. So, what should you do if you are injured as a result of a defect on a footpath?
What defects occur in footpaths?
The types of defects that commonly occur on or in walkways such as footpaths range from a raised or missing sections, crumbling or erosion, and cracks in the concrete. Dips, troughs or unmarked drains can also be classified as hazards to pedestrians.
Most people would have tripped slightly on a damaged piece of a footpath at least once in their lifetime and usually, no injury occurs, however, serious accidents caused by major defects can cause horrific injuries to pedestrians or even cyclists who may also be using the paths.
Who is responsible for the upkeep of these areas?
The maintenance of the footpaths, nature strips and any other walkways in your neighbourhood is the responsibility of your local council. Generally speaking, councils will seek to inspect and update the footpaths that they are responsible for once every year or two. Unless alerted to specific hazards.
Any hazards or defects identified on or in the walkways will need to be rectified by the council to ensure that the walkway is brought up to a safe standard again. If the council fails to repair the damaged walkways, they have breached the duty of care that they owe to you as a member of the public.
Walking tracks in national parks also need to be kept as safe as possible and are the responsibility of the relevant park authority, who will usually have similar policies around safe walkways in place.
What steps can you take to avoid injury?
Personal safety should always be your number one priority and if you are aware of any potential hazards you should try to avoid them and inform your local council as soon as possible. If the hazardous situation has arisen after a bout of bad weather or a road accident you should consider contacting the police or other emergency services.
Record the date and time of your contact and try to take photos where possible.
What can you do if you are already injured?
If you have suffered an injury in an accident caused by an unsafe footpath, you may be able to make what is known as a public liability claim.
Firstly, though, you should attend your GP or hospital (for significant injuries) for medical attention as soon as possible after the accident so that a record of the injury can be established.
If you are eligible to make a public liability claim and you are successful, you may be able to recover costs such as:
- income lost due to the inability to work;
- medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury; and
- compensation for ongoing pain and suffering caused by the injury.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by an unsafe walkway, you may be eligible to make a public liability claim. A personal injury lawyer can assist you with processing the claim.