Having the opportunity and the freedom to spend time in public parks and open spaces has perhaps never been so valued as it has since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK. Our freedoms were significantly curtailed but – unless we were ill or shielding – we were still able to visit green spaces and enjoy a gentle stroll or a run, a dog walk, using outdoor gym equipment or kicking a football around and playing with the children.
Parks, fields and other green spaces such as playing fields are public spaces and usually under the control of the local authority. They are typically safe and enjoyable places from which to escape the grind of daily life and enjoy some fresh air and getting close to nature. But even a walk in the park comes with the risk of injuries.
If you have spent time at your park and suffered an injury, you may be able to claim compensation from the local council.
You can get in touch with an expert legal adviser on 0800 234 6438 – they will be able to let you know whether you have a case.
You can make an injury claim on a no win no fee basis which means if you don’t win, you don’t have to pay any money out.
When you speak with an injury solicitor, they’ll be able to let you know whether they think your injury claim will be successful. But if you don’t end up getting any compensation, the no win no fee promise means that you won’t have to pay your injury lawyer any money.
With no win no fee, there aren’t any upfront charges or hidden costs either. If you do win your case, your personal injury solicitor will charge you a ‘success fee’ as a percentage of the compensation you receive, but this will only take up a maximum of 25% – so you’ll still get to keep most of it.
The most common types of injuries sustained in park accidents include sprains, bruises and broken bones or fractures resulting from trips or falling over potholes or other hazards. Injuries can also happen if equipment such as picnic tables and park benches are poorly maintained or have sharp edges.
Outdoor gym equipment, increasingly a fixture in public parks, may be poorly maintained or difficult to use in cold or wet weather, and can be dangerous, leading to injury when someone tries to use it. Buildings situated within the park may pose a risk of falling debris, particularly if they are old, uninhabited and poorly maintained.
It is also possible to contract illness from dead animals or from poisonous plants that really should not be accessible to members of the public.
Parks, village greens and similar open spaces are open to the public to use at their leisure but those responsible for their maintenance owe a legal duty of care toward individuals. This means they must ensure the space is safe for everyone – young and old – to enjoy it free from the risk of injury.
The local authority responsible for the park owes the public a duty of care under section 2 of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. This requires them to take reasonable care (see next paragraph) to see that the visitor is reasonably safe being in the park and using the facilities. For example, they are expected to:
If you are seeking to make an injury claim after an accident in a park or other public green space, your specialist lawyer will need to demonstrate that the local authority breached its duty of care towards you as a member of the public, and that your injuries directly resulted from that breach.
You need not worry that by making a successful claim, you will deprive the local authority of funds it desperately needs to maintain its already poorly funded services. Your claim will be against its insurance company instead, which means if you win, the insurer pays you. The local authority will not be left out of pocket at all.
An important factor in the context of a council’s duty of care as far as parks are concerned is how much is expected of the council to protect from injury. This is all about what the law calls ‘reasonableness’.
With parks, the reasonableness of what is expected of a local authority may not always be a simple question. As the law stands at present, it really depends on the circumstances of the particular case. For example, it can be difficult balancing whether it is reasonable to erect large, invasive warning signs for a potential hazard against maintaining a natural environment without unnatural ‘eye sores’.
The law is clear that the responsible local authority cannot be expected to prevent all possible injuries to visitors. However, where even a low risk has been identified there remains a duty to minimise the risk – or at least, to warn of such a risk, so if the local authority knew of the risk but ignored it, it will most likely be liability if an accident occurs.
The duty requires the local authority to consider factors including:
Public parks often have playgrounds for children to enjoy and local authorities have to comply with legislation to ensure the equipment and wider play areas are safe to use. Visit our page on playground accident claims for further information.
It can be daunting considering making a claim if you or a child has been injured in an incident at your local park or green space, but don’t let that deter you from making initial enquiries. The law is clear that local authorities owe a duty of care to their park visitors so a specialist legal adviser can take full details of the incident and advise you as to whether you can make a claim.
You can speak with an expert legal adviser for free on 0800 234 6438 – or simply enter your name and phone number into the callback form at the bottom of this page and they will get in touch with you.
Before speaking to an adviser, be ready to provide details of where the incident took place. If you are able to, have as much of the following information available as possible:
If you have a claim, your injury lawyer will build the strongest possible case on your behalf. If it can be proved on balance that the council was negligent and breached its duty towards you, you will win compensation.
How much compensation you may win depends on the nature and extent of your injuries and whether they have had any lasting impact on your life.
The compensation you receive will include general damages (which covers your pain, suffering and ‘loss of amenity’), and special damages – to cover your expenses, medical fees and other out-of-pocket expenses. General damages are assessed by the court (unless you settle your claim out of court) depending on your injuries. But bear in mind that if you were partly responsible for your injury, a deduction will most likely be made.
To get an idea of how much you could be awarded in general damages, check out our compensation calculator.
It is important to take advice straight away and not delay. The law requires that personal injury claims must be started within three years of the incident, otherwise your claim may be ‘time barred’ – the sooner you claim the better.
Your personal injury advisor will talk to you about the merits of your claim and what evidence you will need to get the ball rolling. For example, as part of your claim you will need to have expert medical evidence to support your claim but your lawyer will arrange this for you. However, there’s no need to worry about the cost of any medical report as it will be covered by your no win no fee agreement.
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.
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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.