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Slips and Falls in Public Places

Slips and Falls in Public Places

BPC Lawyers have skilled public liability specialists who can ensure that you will receive proper compensation in the event you suffer an injury by way of a slip or fall in public places. These cases require detailed preparation prior to achieving a successful outcome.

Here are two recent case studies which will provide you with an insight as to what preparations need to be undertaken in public liability cases.

Case study 1

Our client was walking along a footpath in a Sydney suburb when he tripped and fell in a depression which had been negligently left by a worker who had been undertaking repairs to a Telstra box situated in the footpath. The area surrounding the Telstra Box had been resurfaced with bitumen, however, the bitumen was not flush with the surrounding footpath.

Our client sustained serious injuries after tripping on the depression and falling to the footpath sustaining a fracture of his right arm. Fortunately, our client was taken to hospital however, fortunately, a few days later he was able to return to the accident site and take a number of photographs that clearly depict the depression and the fact the bitumen area surrounding the Telstra box had not been properly resurfaced.

The provisions of the Civil Liability Act (2002) NSW set out in Part 5 of the Act, various sections which in some circumstances, can allow the local council immunity from any claims.

Local councils are responsible for the maintaining of footpaths. In this regard we refer you to Section 43 (2) of the Act which states as follows:

“For the purpose of any such proceedings, an act or omission of the authority does not constitute a breach of statutory authority unless the act or omission was in circumstances so unreasonable that no authority having the functions of the authority in question could properly consider the act of omission to be a reasonable exercise of its functions”.

We wrote a letter to the local council informing them of our client’s accident and our intention to sue for damages. The local council engaged its insurance broker who advised us the resurfacing of the bitumen area was undertaken by a subcontractor to Telstra and not by the council. We then wrote to the subcontractor who, in due course, advised us that the resurfacing was actually the responsibility of the local council and furthermore provided us with a photograph of the accident site several months after our client’s accident which clearly indicated the council had taken remedial steps to once again resurface the bitumen area.

We then wrote a further letter to Council advising them of this further information and pursuing our client’s claim for damages. The important lesson is simply that if you have suffered a slip and fall in a public place, it is very important that you take clear photographs of the accident site as such evidence may well be crucial to assisting us in winning your case.

Case study 2

Our client was viewing the New Year’s Eve fireworks from a vantage point on a road in a suburb near Sydney Harbour. The road was divided and was separated by a wooden fence. The wooden fence ran along the entire length of the road as one side of the road was significantly lower than the other.

As our client was watching the fireworks, she leant upon the wooden fence which suddenly and without warning, gave way, causing her to fall to the lower side of the road, being a distance of at least four metres. She fell headfirst and landed on the road below suffering serious head injuries.

In this regard, we refer to section 45 of the Civil Liability Act (2002) NSW, which states as follows:

“Section 45 Special non-feasance protection for roads authorities.

  1. A roads authority is not liable in proceedings for Civil Liability to which this part applies for harm arising from a failure of the authority to carry our road work, or to consider carrying out road work unless at the time of the alleged failure the authority had actual knowledge of the particular risk the materialisation of which resulted in the harm.

Initial enquiries made shortly after the accident by our client’s parents revealed council workers had previously reported to their manager that the wooden fence was decayed and rotten and in danger of collapsing. This information was only obtained by conversation. Our firm then arranged for a Government Information (Public Access) Act Application (GIPAA) in order to obtain access to any written documentation held by the council regarding any prior complaints received from local residents regarding the state of the fence. The application revealed messages had been sent to the council by Facebook from a local resident at least twelve months before the accident, complaining of the rotten state of the fence and requesting the council affect immediate repairs.

We then undertook a doorknock of the residences in the vicinity of the accident site and made contact with the person who had made the complaint. This individual gave us further information that she had not only posted messages on council Facebook but had also sent emails and made several telephone calls.

Accordingly, with this information, the council was not only aware of the rotten state of the fence but was put on notice that it was hazardous and should be repaired as soon as possible allowed us to negotiate a successful settlement on behalf of our client.