Dated: 23/03/2016 By Vashti Norman
4 years ago, Terry Coleman was crossing a road in Oldham and tripped on a pothole – with this began an avoidable legal dispute set to last many years, as the council admitted liability but continued to fight their case.
What Happened in Terry’s Case?
Terry had been out to the shops and was crossing a main road in Oldham when he was caught off-guard by a large pothole – he fell, and was left with a soft tissue injury to his knee.
2 days after the accident, Terry had photographs taken of the pothole by a professional accident investigator, which showed the extent of the defective hole. Terry appointed Vashti Norman, a Personal Injury law specialist at Simpson Millar, to handle his case.
The council accepted that the pothole shown in the picture was defective within the meaning of Section 41 of the Highways Act, however still went on to dispute liability.
Their reasons for disputing liability were:
1. They wanted our client to prove that he fell in that specific hole and not some other hole in the vicinity.
Despite the fact the accident investigator had already taken photos and provided a statement to say that all photos were taken at the same time, the council still continued to allege that our client had failed to prove where the road defect lay.
2. They wanted our client to prove that his injury arose from this exact fall.
After picking through our client’s medical records and checking whether our client had had pre-dating issues with his knee the other side refused to accept that our client’s injury was accident related.
3. They made an allegation of fraud and effectively alluded that the fall did not take place.
It was alleged that he had “noticed” this large hole and, in an effort to gain compensation, brought a claim forward. Terry was pressed on his movements that day but, again, the other side refused to accept any of the evidence.
The Outcome of the Case
By the time Terry’s case finally reached trial, it had been consistently run over by the council for as long as 3 years. Vashti’s hard work pursuing this case on Terry’s behalf finally paid off and she was able to secure £800 in compensation for Terry’s injury.
The court accepted our client’s evidence but deducted his damages by a third on the basis that he should have paid more attention where he was walking.
This case is significant because it highlights that councils are squandering large amounts of public funds defending low value cases whereby they have already admitted liability. This case could have been spared many years of hard work and legal costs had the council initially agreed on a settlement for their fault in this case.
Vashti comments on Terry’s case:
“It’s incredible that defendant councils would fight such a relatively small claim for so long, especially as this case was not subject to the fixed costs regime. This means that if they lose, they have to pay a substantial amount of costs both for our client’s claim for costs and for their own solicitors who have worked to defend their claim. This is remarkable, especially for a case where they have admitted breach of duty!”
“Terry’s case also pays testament to the fact that, even if the other side admits liability – you are not home and dry – as a claimant there is so much you have to prove by way of causation.”
Specialist Personal Injury Advice
We know that court is the last thing you want to have to go through. Like with Terry’s case, we will always try our hardest to reach a favourable settlement for you. Only in situations the other side continues to dispute a fair claim will we have to go ahead with court, where we’ll fight to get what’s fair for you.
Simpson Millar’s Personal Injury solicitors provide clear and straightforward advice throughout, and will support you every step of the way.
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