Two councils in the south of England have taken steps to ensure residents clearing their driveways during the snowy weather will, in most circumstances, not face compensation claims being lodged against them if a member of the public is subsequently injured.
Hampshire County Council and Portsmouth City Council were unable, last year, to assure their residents that they would not face legal action as a result of their actions if they were clearing snow from walkways. However, the two bodies have now informed locals that, except for extreme circumstances, they should feel free to shovel snow from their driveways.
This announcement has not been made officially, but a spokeswoman told the Portsmouth News that members of the public are legally allowed to undertake snow clearing as long as their actions do not make the environment more dangerous than it was in the first place.
This could take the form of, for example, somebody shoveling snow from their driveway and depositing it in the road in front of their house, or using hot water to melt the snow, which could then trickle into the road and freeze again, creating a mini ice-rink.
It’s a difficult area to regulate or advise people clearly of their rights and obligations, but as with many of these things common sense should prevail.
In addition to this, it is fairly rare for one individual to successfully sue another. It is much more common to hear of councils and other public bodies being held to account for accidents, as after all they are legally responsible for many facets of the environment, unless an accident occurred on private land.
Where a claim could arise, for example, would be in the scenario that occurred last year when both the councils mentioned were woefully under-equipped for the snowfall, resulting in many roads being ungritted and traffic chaos resulting. If somebody was injured as a result of the council’s negligence (i.e. failure to react to the conditions), then they may have a case.
The current weather conditions will probably give rise to a sharp increase in personal injuries, with both road accidents and slips on pavements becoming increasingly likely in the adverse weather. People are advised to be vigilant and take extra care, but if anything does go wrong and they are hurt (through no fault of their own) then they can make a claim for compensation.
Source: Portsmouth News