Tis the season to be careful: winter slips and trips

In recent years, Britain has seen its fair share of wild winter weather. We’ve notched up more than a few White Christmases with all parts of the country being affected – towns and cities as well as rural areas. But while the snow and ice can turn the landscape into a Winter Wonderland and bring a bit of magic to the short days, it’s also signals a time to be extra careful when out and about. Slips and trips are just waiting to happen…

Not that we want to sound gloomy. After all, winter is a time for taking a break, recharging batteries and catching up with family. Yet the reality is quite a few festive seasons have no doubt been spoiled over the years by someone suffering a bad injury due to a slip or trip. And if the injury is not your fault? Well, that makes it even worse. Claiming compensation can at least mean there’s a silver lining. So let’s look at the facts.

Who’s responsible for clearing snow and ice?

Once upon a time, when someone cleared a snow and ice from a pathway, it was seen as the act of a Good Samaritan. These days unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.

Clearing a path from a private residence

If you decide to clear the ice and snow from your own private residence (i.e garden path, steps, and driveway) to make a route to your entrance or garage and, as a result, someone slips and hurts themselves, you may have a claim made against you.

Yep, it sounds pretty mean-minded, but technically, the person who was injured does have a right to claim. However, they do have to prove that you acted recklessly or maliciously in the way you cleared the snow and ice away. And that’s easier said than done. Does that mean you should leave your path covered? No, of course not. It simply means you have to take care when clearing the worst of the winter weather.

Clearing a path from a public premises

If you own, run or work for and at a public premises (i.e. a school, a shop, an office building, a church, a library etc), you need to exercise greater care.

You have a duty of care to anyone who is entering or exiting the premises and if you fail to properly and safely clear a route through the snow and ice, resulting in a slip or trip injury, the company/organisation and you as an individual will be held responsible. And clearly that has implications if someone decides to pursue a personal injury claim.

Again however, the success of the claim rests on how you cleared the snow and ice. If it can be proved that you did so without due caution or attention, there may be scope for a claim. But this can be hard to notoriously difficult to prove if the claim comes to court.

The best advice for winter clear-ups

Ultimately, the best advice for winter clear-ups is to do it properly or not at all. Use a good heat duty snow shovel and some good quality grit if you possibly can. If you are doing so for a public premises you may also wish to look at public liability insurance.