Like many of us I have spent the last few weeks treading gingerly along our nations pavements trying to be one of the few to avoid slipping and falling on the ice.
The ‘big freeze’ has inevitably brought with it a huge spike in road traffic accidents and has seen hospital admissions at 10 times the normal quota for this time of year.
Careful drivers, who have never been in an accident before will have succumbed to the conditions and will feel aggrieved to be held ‘at fault’ for accidents that wouldn’t have happened had it not been for the ice and snow.
Unfortunately, in terms of car accidents, insurance companies and the law pay no mind to the fact that adverse conditions may have caused your accident. Even if you are driving within the speed limit and cause an accident you are deemed to not have driven ‘as conditions dictate’ and will be found liable.
The law is not much more forgiving for pedestrians who are injured as a result of falling on ice.
There is unlikely to be any liability in a case where someone falls on ice so long as the accident was due only to the ice. The law does not regard the natural accumulation of snow and ice as an actionable defect. Simply, there is no liability in cases caused purely by natural conditions.
Local Councils have a broad obligation to maintain the roads but there is no particular requirement for them to grit roads or pavements to any particular standard or frequency.
The exemption that applies to Councils does not extend to private landowners. Thus, for example, in a private complex, the company could find itself liable for problems arising from a failure to clear ice and snow.
In circumstances where the ice may have formed due to man-made defects such as a faulty gutter, or where the snow has been transformed or moved into an unnatural hazard then liability may attach.