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What did the Romans do for us? That famous question can spout answers, from the creation of roads, to the development to the calendar to the innovation of ... err... rudimentary plumbing. But enough of all that, perhaps one of the most enduring things the Romans did for us, legally at least, was the development of doctrines of liability for objects falling onto citizens. Indeed, even now, liability for objects falling and causing injury can derive its roots from Roman Law doctrines.

Scotland has taken a battering from various storms over the past few weeks from Frank to Gertrude to Jonas. There have been numerous images and stories emerge of dangerous buildings or objects falling due to high winds. Perhaps the most terrifying of all the stories emerging was that of masonry falling onto a bus in Edinburgh injuring a passenger. For many people in Edinburgh, it evokes memories of the Ryan’s Bar tragedy from June 2000, in which a waitress, Christine Foster, was killed by fallen masonry whilst working.  In addition, this week we saw images on the News of parts of buildings having fallen with the remainder of the building wobbling.

What remedies then are available to people struck by pieces of falling masonry? If you are injured by masonry or other objects falling from a building in a public place such as on the street, you may have the option of pursuing a public liability claim.  Particularly with public liability claims, it is important to ensure that you seek legal advice as early as possible to prevent potentially vital bits of evidence going missing. It is important to discover how long a defect has been present, which can be obtained through Freedom of Information doctrines.

What happens, however, if an accident does not occur in a public place but rather on private premises?

If you are the occupier or have control of a property, you have a duty to assess the risks that the buildings poses to others, either through the prospect of falling masonry or the risk posed by other objects, such as trees. You have a duty to take reasonable care to protect persons using the premises due to hazards caused by the state of the premises. If in doubt, minimise the risk to others by cordoning off the area – do not simply wait and see what happens! Make sure that you have insurance to cover you for such eventualities.

However it is not only buildings that the winds use to create dangers, there are also threats posed by lighter objects, such as recycling bins, fences and other objects such as For Sale signs. These objects amongst others are capable of being picked up by the wind and blown into people and other property causing injury and damage. Redress can be sought through actions in negligence against the owners if they have failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the objects from being picked up by the wind.
If you’ve been injured in an accident during these winter storms, Talk to Thompsons on 0800 0891 331.

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