Local Council pays pedestrian damages in trip and fall on defective footpath

Published 30 Nov 2018

Our client was an elderly lady walking in the early hours of the morning to the shopping centre in Sydney New South Wales. As she was walking to the shopping centre, she tripped on a damaged section of the footpath which had dark grey asphalt which had lined the footpath area. It had not been repaired properly and maintained in a proper workmanlike manner. That long-term damage should have been obvious to any person undertaking the work and inspection of the footpath with the intention of ensuring that the footpath was suitably safe for pedestrians.

Our client fell over and fractured her right wrist and after attending to hospital it was determined that she required an operation to her right wrist. She lives on her own and she needed to go back to the hospital for further treatment and surgery to her right wrist. A letter of claim was made upon the local council advising of our client’s injuries as a result of the accident. The local council was advised that the asphalt installed was not adequately or safely maintained and contained obstructions that would have obstructed our client and other pedestrians walking along the footpath at the time. The work that had been undertaken to the footpath area was defective and left the footpath in a dangerous state for all pedestrians.

We obtained a liability expert report in which the expert determined that the local council employed experienced maintenance staff and proper assessments and inspections and risk assessments would have identified that the asphalt footpath was a significant potential trip hazard for all pedestrians using the footpath. The photos of the footpath and the asphalt which had been placed on the footpath clearly reflected the opinion of the expert. We launched legal proceedings against the local council in negligence. The particulars of negligence included their failure to properly repair and maintain the said footpath in a proper and workmanlike manner, failed to repair the said footpath after being made aware of the poor state of the footpath, failed to barricade the said footpath to prevent pedestrians from walking along it and failed to cover the said footpath with a smooth and flat surface for pedestrians. A liability expert report addressed the particulars of negligence against the local council. The local council undertook an investigation of the matter and after their thorough investigation of the matter, they came to the same conclusion as our liability expert and reached out to resolve the matter.

We served a medical expert report from an orthopaedic surgeon in relation to the full extent of our client’s injuries and disabilities arising from the accident. Her fractured right wrist had undergone several operations and physiotherapy treatment. She was left with a stiff right wrist and ongoing pain in the right wrist. It was very weak compared to her left hand. The right wrist interfered with every activity that she had daily using her right hand including carrying weights of any consequence, shopping, knitting, undoing jars, housework and the like. She had a weaker grip in the right hand as compared to the left as was the range of motion which was considerably reduced on the right wrist. The medical expert determined that the fractured right wrist was caused by the fall and that she has ongoing pain and restriction of movement and pain and suffering with the right wrist which is of a permanent nature. She also had a lifting limit in her right hand as compared to the left. She will need ongoing physiotherapy in the future if her condition deteriorates. As she was living at home on her own, and elderly, she needed domestic assistance of an ongoing nature in the foreseeable future.

The medical expert determined that our client was left with a permanent impairment of the right wrist of 30% which was quite significant in the circumstances. The legal representatives for the local council invited us to attend their offices for an informal settlement conference to discuss the liability and medical issues in respect of the claim. At the conclusion of the conference, the local council was ordered to pay our client a significant award in damages in compensation for our client’s significant injury to her right wrist which has left her permanently impaired. Our client was extremely happy with the outcome and settlement of the matter.

Conclusion: -

If you suffer an injury as a pedestrian result of the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to receive an award in damages in compensation as a result of your injuries that you have suffered from that accident, providing that you are able to establish negligence against that responsible party.

In this case our client was a pedestrian walking along a footpath in which the asphalt had not been undertaken in a proper and workmanlike manner resulting in our client tripping and falling and suffering a fractured right wrist for which she required several operations. The local council’s own records indicated that they were aware of the state of the footpath and that it was left in that state without it being rectified. The liability expert report also confirmed those matters. We were clearly able to establish negligence against the local council in relation to our client’s injuries, losses and damages as our client had suffered a significant injury to her right wrist which had left her permanently disabled. The local council through their legal representatives were ordered to pay our client a significant award in damages in compensation to our client as a result of its negligence of its servants or agents in leaving the footpath in the state that it was in after the asphalt had not been placed on the footpath in unworkmanlike manner and exposed our client and all other pedestrians to a significant risk of injury in the circumstances. Our client received a substantial award in compensation damages as a result of the negligence of the local council.

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