Public Footpath Personal Injury Claims Guide – How To Claim Compensation For A Accident On A Public Footpath?

By Daniel Ray. Last Updated On 21st March 2022. Most of us use public streets, roads and footpaths on a daily basis to commute to work, to complete the school run or when going to the shops.  You may not be aware, but if you’re injured on a public street because of an accident caused by some form of negligence, you may be able to make a public footpath personal injury claim.

This guide will explain what you should do in the event of an accident but if you would like to get in touch, you can contact us through our website.

Additionally, you can call us on 0800 408 7825 or just the live-chat window in the corner of your screen.

Please carry on reading this useful article about accidents in public places.

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A Guide To Public Footpath Personal Injury Claim

Public Footpath Personal Injury

Public Footpath Personal Injury

Public pathways, footpaths, pavements and streets are used by many people every day of the year.  They provide a safe pedestrianised area away from the vehicles using our busy road system.

Many footpaths are maintained by local councils but there are other parties that can be responsible for them, which this guide will explain.  We’ll attempt to answer questions like “Can I sue the council for tripping?”, “Can you sue for slipping on a wet floor?” and “Can I claim compensation for a fall?”.

As well as these questions, we’ll explain what you should do in the event of an accident, how much compensation you might receive and how no win no fee personal injury claims work.

Most public highways, footpaths, pavements and walkways are managed by local authorities under the Highways Act 1980.  We’ll provide details of what responsibilities the authorities have under this act as well.

If you need to make a public footpath personal injury claim, this guide will provide you with all the information you’ll need prior to starting your claim.

What Is A Public Footpath?

A public highway (which includes footpaths), is an area of land that the public can be used over and over again, for walking, running, transporting and other tasks without seeking permission.

Specifically, footpaths can be used by walkers, runners and those using disability aids such as wheelchairs, mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs.

A public footpath or pavement is usually found at the side of a road.  They are often maintained by local councils but can also be the responsibility of businesses of landowners.

What Is A Public Footpath Accident?

“Can you claim for falling in the street?” is a fairly common question that we hear here at Public Interest Lawyers and the answer isn’t as simple as you’d think.   For public injury claims to be successful, a few things need to be proven first.  These are:

  • Did the responsible party owe the claimant a duty of care?
  • Was the duty of care breached in any way?
  • And was it the breach of duty that caused the accident to happen and led to the claimant being injured?

If you’re injured on a footpath and decide to make a compensation claim, we’d advise you to contact a personal injury lawyer to help with the claim.  You might think you can answer ‘yes’ to all the statements above but, if the defendant uses solicitors to argue that they weren’t liable, you’ll need a legal specialist on your side to counter their arguments.

There is a time limit for all personal injury claims that you need to be aware of.  If a child is injured, they can claim any time up till their 18th birthday (with the help of a responsible adult) or have 3 years from their 18th birthday to claim themselves.

An adult making an accident claim has 3 years from the date the accident occurred.

Determining A Dangerous Public Footpath?

Another reason for hiring a personal injury solicitor is that proving that a footpath was dangerous and caused your accident can be tricky.  In some cases, a defect in the footpath or pavement needs to be over 1 inch in height or depth to be deemed dangerous.  However, in other cases, defects smaller than this have led to successful compensation claims.

If you are injured on a footpath while out walking, there are some steps you should take to gather evidence which may help your claim:

  • Photograph the cause of the accident. If you can demonstrate the height of the defect by using a ruler or another item that can be compared to the defect.
  • Seek medical advice by visiting a doctor or hospital. This will ensure your injuries are assessed and treated but also mean medical records will be created.  These can be used in public accident claims as evidence of your injuries.
  • Ask any witnesses to write a statement of what they saw. Also, ask them for their contact details in case you need to verify anything at a later date.
  • If there are any businesses nearby that have CCTV cameras, you could ask for a copy of the footage. This will usually only be retained for a short period, so you should act quickly.
  • Photograph any visible injuries that you can. These photographs can be used to back up your claims in association with the medical records.
  • Contact a personal injury lawyer. As discussed earlier, it might be possible to claim yourself, but you may not receive the correct level of compensation (or none at all).

These steps, which might seem time-consuming, can help to support your claim.

Public Footpath Personal Injury Claims Calculator

Following accidents in a public place, many people want to use a personal injury claims calculator to work out how much compensation they might receive.  Courts, lawyers and insurers involved in personal injury claims all use a pre-defined list of compensation amounts when working out how much to award for physical injuries.

The table below outlines the range of compensation that is paid for certain injuries:

Body Part Severity Maximum Payment Comments
Toe Moderate to severe Up to £49,120 Injuries that range in severity starting from bruises and simple soft tissue damage and then through to injuries which result in the amputation of all toes.
Ankle Minor to severe Up to £61,120 Injuries that range in severity starting from sprains and strains and then through to injuries which cause the complete loss of function in the ankle
Foot Minor to very severe Up to £96,120 Injuries that range in severity starting from some soft tissue damage and then on to loss an injury which causes the amputation of the entire foot.
Leg Minor to severe Up to £119,220 Injuries that range in severity starting from soft tissue damage and then on to an injury which causes permenant disability.
Hand Minor to serious Up to £54,280 Injuries that range in severity starting from a soft tissue type injury through to injuries which cause the long term loss of use of the hand.
Wrist Minor to severe Up to £52,480 Injuries that range in severity starting from very simple soft tissue damage and on to injuries where the wrist is unusable for the long term.
Arm Moderate to severe Up to £114,810 Injuries that range in severity starting from an injury which is very painful but will heal fully and on to an injury to the arm causing paralysis.
Finger Minor to severe Up to £21,920 Injuries that range in severity starting from basic soft tissue damage and on to injuries which result in the amputation of one or more fingers.
Thumb Minor to severe Up to £48,020 Injuries that range in severity starting from soft tissue damage, bruising and strains through to an injury where the thumb is amputated.
Back Minor to severe Up to £141,150 Injuries that range in severity starting from sprains, strains and bruising through to that are painful and cause restricted movement until fully healed.
Neck Minor to severe Up to £130,060 Injuries that range in severity starting from bruising and soft tissue damage and then on to severe injuries which cause loss of movement with permanent pain.

This list obviously doesn’t include every possible injury that can occur after tripping on a footpath.  Just because an injury isn’t listed here, doesn’t mean you can’t make a claim.  So long as your injury happened because of an accident caused by a negligent act, you could speak with a specialist to begin a claim.

When you speak with a lawyer, they’ll assess your claim and provide you with a calculation of how much your specific injury could be worth.

Types Of Damages Which You Could Claim

If you’ve been injured in a public place, and the accident which caused the injuries was caused by negligence, you could claim for any damages.  There are a number of things that can be claimed for, these include:

  • General Damages: A compensation payment made to the claimant to cover the pain and suffering caused by their injuries.
  • Medical Expenses: Your claim might be able to include the costs of prescription medicines, medical treatments (non-NHS) and over the counter medicines.
  • Travel Costs: You can sometimes claim the costs of alternative travel arrangements or trips to a doctor etc which are linked directly to your accident.
  • Personal Property Damage: If any property is damaged at the time of your accident, you may be able to claim the cost of replacing the item. Items might include clothing, jewellery, mobile phones, laptops or bags.
  • Care Costs: Some claimants require professional care when recovering from their injuries. These costs can sometimes be included in a claim.
  • Loss of earnings: If a claimant loses any salary for taking time off from work (to recover or attend medical appointments), any lost income can sometimes be recovered.

Some of these claims can include future losses too.  For instance, if your injuries mean you’ll require long term medical treatment, you might claim for future lost income as well.

The financial parts of a claim listed above are known as special damages.  It’s essential that you can prove these were linked to your accident.  A solicitor would usually ask you to explain why you needed to spend the money and to provide receipts to verify the expenditure.

Before committing to any of these expenses, you should consult with a lawyer to find out if there’s a good chance you can claim the costs back.

Common Causes Of Accidents And Injuries On A Public Footpath

Some footpath injuries are more common than others.  You might be eligible to make a claim for any injury which was sustained because of an accident caused by negligence but these are some of the most common causes:

  • Paving slabs which are raised and uneven. This can be caused by poor laying of the slabs, subsidence or damage caused by heavy objects.
  • Protruding tree roots. Some paths are tree-lined but, as the roots grow, they can become trip hazards.
  • Potholes have become big news over the last few years as council budgets have been slashed. Any accident on a public footpath caused by a pothole could lead to a compensation claim.
  • Missing or damaged covers. This type of accident can be caused by utility covers (water, gas, electric etc) or manhole covers.  If they become damaged, they can either be raised or missing.  Both scenarios can lead to trip hazards.
  • Broken or insufficient lighting. It’s possible, if a streetlight is inadequate or broken, for a trip hazard to be difficult to see.   An injury sustained by an accident caused in this way, might lead to a compensation claim against the local authority.

Highway tripping claims can be tricky to prove and, without enough evidence, the council or business responsible are unlikely to admit liability.  You should try to gather as much evidence as described earlier prior to making a claim.

Slips, Trips, And Falls On A Public Footpath

When asking the question “Can I sue the council for tripping?”, the answer isn’t always clear cut.  Pavement trip compensation claims require specific evidence to be provided to be able claim successfully.   This includes:

  • Proving the size of the defect. Whether this be a hole, pothole or raised kerb, the claimant should try to demonstrate, with photographic evidence, that the defect was more than 1 inch in height or depth.
  • Demonstrating that the responsible party didn’t inspect or maintain the defect adequately. There are specific time limits for inspecting footpaths which vary depending on the area they are in i.e. a high street pavement would be inspected more frequently than a small cul-de-sac. 

Proving that the local authority hasn’t inspected a public footpath regularly enough can be very tricky to prove.  A specialist personal injury lawyer should have the knowledge to be able to gain information to support a claim.

You could help them by taking photographs of the defect prior to it being repaired.  Try to include a measurement of the defect in the photo either by using ruler or something else, like a coin, which can be used to demonstrate the depth of the defect.

Footpath Accident Statistics And Risks Of Walking

According to information requested under a freedom of information request by a road safety groups, the following statistics were identified in 2017.

  • There were over 10,200 trip claims made by those injured in a public place (answers came from 365 councils).
  • The amount of compensation paid by councils in the period was over £2.1 million.
  • The most claims made was against Lancashire council. They received 512 claims of which 31 have so far been successful (totalling nearly £120,000).
  • Most successful claims were against Hillingdon council in London who received 148 claims of which 115 were successful (over £350,000 in compensation was paid).
  • Of all the 365 councils questioned, only 1 had no claim against them. This was Shetland council.

As discussed earlier in this article, proving a case against a council can be tricky and complex.  The statistics above, prove that a large number of claims are unsuccessful.  This is why we’d recommend employing the help of a personal injury lawyer who specialises in these types of claim.  Ask them to provide evidence of previous cases that they’ve been successful in or ask for client reviews and compensation amount awarded.

Who Could Be Liable For My Accident?

Under the Highways Act 1980, local authorities are responsible for inspecting and maintaining public roads, walkways and pavements within their area.  This doesn’t mean they must ensure the pavement is perfectly flat at all times, but they must follow an inspection schedule and ensure any defects highlighted are repaired in a timely manner.

If you’re injured outside on a path outside of a shop, it is still likely that the local authority is responsible but there are some scenarios where the business owner has responsibility for the land.  In some areas, councils use special paving slabs or markers to highlight the highway boundary.

If you’re unsure who is responsible for a path that you’ve tripped on then speak with a personal injury specialist as they will usually know how to identify who’s liable for an area of land.

Am I Responsible For The Pavement Outside My House?

The answer to this question can depend on a couple of different factors. One of the main factors could be whether or not the pavement belongs to the council or whether it is legally a part of your property. It’s uncommon that the maintenance/ownership of the pavement would be the responsibility of whoever lived in the house.

Public walkways can be the responsibility of the local authority, such as the council. Therefore, it is down to them to inspect, maintain and repair these pavements so that the risk of people tripping and injuring themselves can be reduced. If the pavement is up to standard then it becomes much less likely that you could make a claim if you trip and fall on it. This is because it can be argued that the council has fulfilled their duty of care by making sure the pavements were safe.

Sometimes, a house’s driveway may run onto the pavement. If so, it’s important to know where your property ends and the public walkway begins. This way, you can be clearer about which area you are responsible for. As mentioned above, even a public footpath next to your house is the responsibility of the local council. It is only your property that you are responsible for.

No Win No Fee Public Footpath Personal Injury Claims

You have probably heard numerous adverts offering No Win No Fee services.  You can use these services to make a public footpath personal injury claim if the solicitor believes the accident was caused by negligence.

If you’re unsure how no win no fee actually works, the comparison below will help.

  1. Pay a solicitor directly

    One option, when making a personal injury claim, is to pay a solicitor for their services either by an hourly rate or by paying a fixed. Usually, they’ll ask for a payment up front or in instalments.   If your solicitor wins the case, you will be given 100% of any compensation that is awarded.

    If they lose the case though, you won’t get any of your money back which means you could end up with a large legal bill but no compensation.

  2. No win no fee solicitor

    Another option, which is very popular, is using a no win no fee solicitor. One major benefit is that you don’t have to fund the claim yourself.  When you sign a no win no fee agreement, your solicitor agrees that, if they lose, you don’t pay them for their service.

    If they do win, they are paid by deducting a success fee from your compensation.  This is limited to 25% of the award but does mean that at no point do you have to send them a payment for their services. 

In the past, even when using a no win no fee service, you would have retained 100% of the compensation and your solicitor would’ve been paid all of their costs by the defendant.   This is no longer possible, as rules changed in 2013 for no win no fee claims but we still believe that the new method is still less risky than paying a solicitor up front and then losing the case.

No win no fee allows many people to claim who might not have been able to afford to do so.  This is a good thing and provides a level playing field meaning that those liable don’t get away with negligence just because the victim can’t afford to sue them.

How To Make A Public Footpath Personal Injury Claim

To begin a public footpath personal injury claim here’s what you should do:

  • Firstly, gather the evidence we discussed earlier in this guide.
  • Next, contact a personal injury lawyer and discuss your claim with them. They’ll offer a free initial consultation where you can ask them any questions you might have.  Use this session to decide whether you like the company or not and if you believe they’re the right people to take on your case. You’re under no obligation to proceed until you’ve signed an agreement. The lawyer will ask a number of questions and ascertain whether they believe you have a good chance of claiming compensation.   If they’re happy that you do, they’ll estimate how much compensation you could get and agree to take on your case.
  • When you’re happy with a particular lawyer, your case can begin.

It’s important to remember that there are personal injury claims time limits in the UK.  Currently, you have 3 years from the date of your accident to begin a claim.  If the claimant is a child, they have 3 years from the date of their accident.

Try to begin your claim sooner rather than later to ensure that the lawyer has plenty of time to gather any supporting evidence.

Personal Injury Specialists

Here are some online personal injury lawyers that you could approach:

Remember, all personal injury lawyers will offer a free consultation.  Use this to determine if they’re the right company for you.  Consider how you get on with their advisor, their recent successes and any online reviews you have read about their company.


Here are some other useful guides which might be relevant to making a public footpath personal injury claim: