A pedestrian who was injured when she tripped and fell on a hole in the road has been refused compensation for tripping on a pothole by her local council.
In December 2015, fifty-three year old Barbara Fielding from Blackpool in Lancashire was walking her dog along Windermere Road when she tripped on a pothole and fell onto her face. Barbara suffered a significant head trauma, cut lip and black eye, and was severely shaken by the fall.
On her daughter´s insistence, Barbara attended the A&E Department of Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where she underwent a CT scan to check against a potential brain injury. Although the scan came back clear, it was five weeks before the lump on her head went down and her bruising subsided.
During this time, Barbara suffered from depression and spent much of the Christmas holiday in bed. She has since changed the route she uses to walk her dog as the site of the pothole still traumatises her and, other than walking her dog, rarely ventures outside of her home.
Barbara also took photographs of her injuries and sent them to Blackpool Council, requesting compensation for tripping on a pothole. However, the council refused her request – stating that the pothole on which she tripped was not large enough to qualify for compensation.
In a written reply to Barbara´s request for compensation for tripping on a pothole, the council explained that it regularly conducts inspections of the town´s roads and will repair any pothole with a depth of 40mm or more. The council had inspected Windermere Road in June 2015 and not considered the hole dangerous at the time.
Speaking to the Blackpool Gazette, Barbara expressed her surprise at the council´s refusal to pay compensation for tripping on a pothole. “They say the hole isn’t big enough to be considered a pothole – but how big does a hole have to be?” Barbara said. “They know the extent of the injuries I had because they’ve got the photographs”.
Barbara is now considering her next course of action for, although the pothole on which Barbara tripped has now been repaired, Blackpool Council continues to deny liability for her injuries.
Editor´s Note: In 1978, Pitman v. Southern Electricity Board established the criteria under which it was possible to claim compensation for tripping on a pothole. Claims should be assessed on the length of time that a pothole has presented a risk of injury in relation to the volume of foot traffic on the road where it is located. The depth and width of a pothole should be considered immaterial.