17th December 2013
You might be forgiven for not knowing about Falls Awareness Week. Just like the type of accident the campaign was created to draw attention to - it appeared to be all over in a moment. Between June 17th – 21st, to be precise.
Created by Age UK and held every year in June, Falls Awareness Week is aimed at helping elderly people, their relatives and carers to find out more about preventing falls by taking part in local events, information and exercise classes.
One in three suffer falls...
Around 1 in 3 of over-65s suffer a fall each year and the number of personal injury claims made as a result of slips, trips and falls has risen sharply by nearly 60 per cent between 2006 and 2012. Currently, more than £50 million is being paid out in injury compensation by local authorities as a result of poor road surfaces.
Despite several months having passed since the second coldest March on record and prolonged severe winter weather it would not be unlikely to find that pavements, footpaths walkways and the public highway in general are in urgent need of repairs.
Under the Highways Act 1980, a local council has a statutory duty to maintain the highway and footpaths, and must show they are regularly inspected and fixed. However, in reality, they are constantly behind in repairing or replacing uneven or cracked pavements and kerbstones.
Local councils are known to robustly dispute the numerous genuine claims from members of the public who genuinely suffer slips and trips caused by uneven pavement surfaces. A common defence is to accuse the claimant of "failing to look ahead to where they were placing their feet" or that they “overcompensated” trying to prevent a loss of balance and as a result, actually lost their balance and fell over.
Council refuses to negotiate until court proceedings issued....
In a recent case, an elderly woman suffered a broken patella after tripping on an uneven pavement but who originally thought she received nothing more than a bruised knee. The local authority refused to negotiate an acceptable settlement and only agreed to an accident compensation settlement when court proceedings were issued. Following hospital treatment, the victim was virtually immobile for a further two months and still experiences instability and is unable to kneel or crouch.
Since 2009/10 spending on road maintenance by the Highways Agency has fallen by £560 million and by £301 million at local highway authorities. According to a March 2013 survey by the Automobile Association, 50 per cent of respondents stated local road conditions were “worse” and 14 per cent said “much worse” than a year ago.