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Claiming Compensation From Councils and Local Authorities

Local authorities have a duty of care to keep you safe

Councils and local authorities have a duty of care to make sure people are kept safe in public spaces, such as parks and roads, and their properties, including schools and leisure centres.

An important part of this is making sure their land and property is properly maintained – if they fail to do this, then they’ve put you at risk and you may be able to sue the council for injury compensation.

For example, if your local council has failed to repair a pathway with a cracked surface or loose paving slabs, then this can cause trips or falls leading to painful, long lasting injuries. You may then be able to make a compensation claim against them to cover the expenses caused by your injury and the effects it’s had on your life.

To find out whether you might be able to make a claim, you can get in touch with a trained legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438. They’ll never pressure you into making a claim, so if you’re just looking for advice and answers to your questions they can help you with that too.

DID YOU KNOW: Examples of a local authority’s breach of duty include failure to remove tripping hazards such as debris or fallen trees; failure to fill pot holes or to repair uneven pavements or roads, and generally poor maintenance procedures.

How much compensation will you receive?

It’s very difficult to for us to tell you exactly how much compensation you might receive from the council, especially early on in your claim. This is because your compensation amount depends on the type of injury you’ve suffered, how serious it is, and the ways it’s impacted you and your life.

However, to get a guideline figure on how much compensation you might be able to receive, you can try our compensation calculator which estimates your compensation based on your answers to some simple questions.

What’s no win no fee?

Your solicitor will usually be able to make your claim using a no win no fee agreement. This takes the financial risk out of claiming, because it makes sure you won’t be left out of pocket if your claim isn’t successful.

With no win no fee, you don’t have to pay any money if you don’t win your case. If you do win your claim, you’ll need to pay a success fee as a percentage of the compensation you receive – but this won’t make up more than 25%.

Claiming against the local authority for a trip or fall

If you’ve tripped over an uneven pavement, or suffered a similar injury by – for example, twisting your ankle by stepping into a pot hole on council land – you may be able to make a compensation claim against the local authority.

To make your claim, your solicitor will need to be able to prove that the local council or authority breached its ‘duty of care’ and that the injury was directly caused by this.

Local authorities are expected to take action when told about a hazard on its land or property – so, once notified, they should quickly repair the problem or at least carry out a risk assessment. If they don’t do this, then they’ll be found to have breached their duty and you’ll be able to make a claim.

For example, if the frost from a cold snap causes pot holes in the road, the local authority is unlikely to be responsible for any injuries that are caused by them straight away, particularly if they’ve not been made aware of the problem.

However, if your solicitor can show that the local authority was told about the hazard, but nothing was done within a reasonable period of time, then they’ll probably be found to have breached their duty of care.

Even when the local authority is carrying out maintenance and repair work on its land, it should take actions to keep the public safe. For example, signs should be put up to warn passers-by of repair work. If no warnings are visible and someone trips and is hurt, they could then make a personal injury claim.

Claiming for playground and leisure centre accidents

By their very nature, children are more accident prone than adults – but it can be very difficult to accept if your child has been injured as a result of your local council’s negligence.

The local authority’s ‘duty of care’ also applies to playgrounds and leisure centres, including council swimming pools – which means they should make sure these facilities are safe for use to avoid accidents from happening.

As well as its common law duty of care towards you, your local authority also has a statutory duty under sections 3 and 4 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 to ensure the health and safety of its users so far as is reasonably practicable.

If your child has suffered an injury and you think it was caused by the negligence of your local authority, then a solicitor can help you make a compensation claim on their behalf any time up until their 18th birthday. Once they turn 18, they then have three years to sue the council themselves.

Injuries while working for a local authority

More than a million people work for local authorities and councils throughout the UK – and this means it’s very important for you to be kept safe while you’re at work.

As an employer, the local authority must look after the well-being of its staff and make sure you work in a safe environment.

It has a common law duty of care towards employees and workers as well as statutory obligations under health and safety laws. For example, it should take steps to make ensure your health, safety and wellbeing – and this means both your physical and mental well-being.

A council’s duty towards its employees is wide, and ranges from providing and maintaining a safe working environment and undertaking appropriate risk assessments – to giving you the proper training and protecting you from bullying or harassment.

If your employer has breached its duty towards you and you’ve suffered an injury, disease or mental health problem as a result, then you can make a compensation claim.

When making your case, your solicitor will try to prove that your injuries were caused by the local authority’s negligence or breach of duty to you.

To help them build the best possible case, it can be useful to collect as much evidence as possible – including photos of the location of the accident and your injuries, any CCTV footage, contact details of any witnesses and a copy of the accident log book entry.

If it was a serious accident, the local authority should have informed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in which case we should be able to get hold a copy of the HSE report to help your case.

Your solicitor will also arrange for you to go for a free medical assessment to help you claim.

When you should make your claim

You should take steps to make your injury claim against the local authority as soon as possible because you only have three years after the incident (or three years from the date you knew the council’s negligence caused your injury or condition) to start a case. After three years, you might be ‘time-barred’ and cannot make a claim.

If you’re claiming for a child, you have until they reach 18 years to make a claim (they then have until they’re 21 to make a claim for themselves). If you’re claiming on behalf of someone who has a mental disability, this three-year period doesn’t start to run until they’ve regained their mental capacity.

However, whether you’re claiming for yourself or for anyone else, it’s best to start the ball rolling as soon as you can while events are fresh in your mind.

To find out whether you could make a claim, you can speak to a trained legal adviser on 0800 234 6438, or enter your details using the claim form on this page to request a callback.

About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

When you submit your details, you'll be in safe hands. Our partners are National Accident Helpline (a brand of National Accident Law, a firm of personal injury solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority). They are the UK's leading personal injury service. Their friendly legal services advisers will call you to talk about your claim and give you free, no-obligation advice. National Accident Law may pay us a marketing fee for our services.

By submitting your personal data, you agree for your details to be sent to National Accident Law so they can contact you to discuss your claim.

If you win your case, your solicitor's success fee will be taken from the compensation you are awarded - up to a maximum of 25%. Your solicitor will discuss any fees before starting your case.