John McKeown | Solicitor


Claims following a slip or trip in the street, or in the supermarket etc, are not straightforward. Just because you have had an accident which isn’t your fault does not automatically entitle you to compensation.

Councils are not expected to keep every road and pavement perfect at all times; that would be impossible. Similarly, occupiers of public buildings such as supermarkets and restaurants/bars are not expected to keep their premises free from spillages, debris etc at all times either. Both are only expected to do what is deemed reasonable.

In order to be successful with a claim against a Local Authority or Council you have to be able to prove the following:

1. That the defect is an actionable defect. This means one is significant enough to trigger a duty to repair.
2. That the Council or Local Authority knew about the defect but failed to do anything about it OR
3. That defect had been there for a sufficient length of time that the Council or Local Authority ought to have known about it had they carried out an adequate system of inspection.

There are some things you can do to help us prove these things.

    Take photos of the defect as soon after your accident as possible. Potholes etc. will change overtime and once a Council is aware of the claim they are usually quick to make repairs, therefore it is important we can see how the defect looked at the time of your accident.
    A Council is not obliged to repair all potholes and defects. It all comes down to how deep the defect is. Typically defects with a depth of more than 20mm on a pavement and 40mm on a road will be classed as deep enough to require repair. The best way to take a photo is with a ruler or measuring tape as follows:
    Witnesses can be not only people who witness your accident but people who can give us information regarding the defect. If you know anyone who can say how long the defect has been present, whether they have previously reported the accident or know anything about how the defect might have appeared then get their contact details and pass them onto us.



Claims occurring in supermarkets or public buildings tend to involve more slips on spillages or tripping over debris.

Supermarkets, pubs, restaurants, etc will all carry regular inspections of their buildings looking out for any hazards. Therefore, to be successful with a claim we have to be able to prove

1. The hazard had been there for long enough that it ought to have been picked up in their inspection and dealt with.
2. That the hazard had been reported to a staff member and they failed to do anything about it.
3. That a staff member taking reasonable care ought to have noticed the hazard and dealt with it.

Again, there are things you can do to help:

    You should always try and get photos of whatever caused your accident. Also take photos of the surrounding area so we can see how easily visible the spillage would be others, in particular staff members or those carrying out inspections.
    Report your accident as soon as you can. This will help prove that the accident has occurred and can give important information as to how the store etc dealt with the hazard after the accident.
    Again, witnesses are hugely vital to any claim. Not only do they confirm your version of events but can also tell us a lot about the hazard which caused your accident. Even if someone hasn’t seen your actual accident they may be able to tell how long a hazard has been there for or that they had previously reported it. Always get contact details and pass onto us.
John McKeown

John McKeown

Dispute Resolution Team

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