More and more people are discovering the joys of strolling in the countryside and most of those who enjoy rambling in the great British outdoors do so in the knowledge they are likely to come across hazards and obstacles – so can you claim compensation if a walking accident causes injury?
One of the key elements in pursuing such a compensation claim is to establish whether the rural path or track counts as a highway maintainable at the public expense under the law. Most footpaths or countryside tracks are likely to be deemed as such under the Highways Act of 1980 and, if so, Section 41 of that Act requires the highways authority to maintain and repair the highway in question. However, in the countryside, tracks and paths are often nothing more than compressed mud and stones and are frequently covered with all manner of vegetation and detritus.
Previous court decisions can help to throw light on the legal position: the case of Kind versus Newcastle-upon-Tyne Council led to a ruling that the determinative question was whether the highway as a whole was reasonably safe for ordinary traffic. In this instance the judge ruled the main carriageway was reasonably passable and therefore suitable for traffic; considering the rural character of the road, it was deemed to be in a good state of repair even though the verges were not suitable for cyclists or pedestrians.
But what if the allegedly dangerous condition of the footpath stems from an obstruction on the highway itself? Can the highway be said to be in disrepair in such a situation? In the case of Hereford and Worcester County Council versus Newman, the Court of Appeal thought not. In this case, one of three rural footpaths had been obstructed by a barbed wire fence placed across the pathway. The judges held that out of repair refers simply to the surface being defective or disturbed in some way, and a that highway that has been rendered unusable by an obstruction cannot necessarily said to be out of repair.
Accordingly, if you are unlucky enough to trip over a low fence or a stile while out rambling in the countryside, a claim for compensation is more than likely to fail. For more information on claims law or support and advice on making an injury claim, contact George Ide’s specialist team on 01243 786668 or email us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Garry Sleet. Personal Injury department
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