Personal injury lawyers advise that slips and trips on icy pavements can be fraught with difficulty for proof of liability.
In December 2008, hospital admissions in Lancashire rose by 20% due to cold weather related medical problems. Along with winter illness, patients were admitted with various fractures and broken bones. Preston and Chorley hospitals saw around 320 new patients admitted each day.
General Manager of the accident and emergency departments at the local NHS trust, Suzanne Hargreaves, said, "Due to the icy weather we have had many older patients admitted with broken hips and other fractures."
Figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) reveal that over 20,000 people have to go to hospital each year due to slips and falls on ice, snow or frost. Many of these personal injury accidents happen on footpaths.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said, "Legislation makes it very difficult for us when it comes to cleaning and gritting footpaths.
"If we try and clear footpaths and someone slips we are liable. If we leave it to clear naturally we're not liable. When I owned a newsagent's in Leyland our insurers were quite explicit with us that when it snowed we were not to go out and clear the footpath outside the shop.
"If I go out and change the road conditions and someone slips those road conditions are my fault."
The council admitted that they would only grit frozen paths in areas of high usage, but more rural areas with low traffic volumes would not have their paths treated. It was explained that the grit used by the council was only effective if walked over by a large amount of people and therefore it was useless on footpaths that saw infrequent use.
A RoSPA spokesperson said, "If there is a particular risk and a council knows a pavement can be gritted, we think they should."
A personal injury lawyer from Lancashire commented that claims as a result of falls on icy paths are "fraught with difficulties".
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Published on 1970-01-01 22:34:00