Hazel's Trip Claim Wins £12,500 in Court (Whitehead)
Hazel was getting out of her car on the public roadway at her home when she tripped on the raised edge of a manhole cover and fell onto her outstretched hand. As a result of this trip, Hazel suffered a distal radial fracture of her right wrist which required a cast.
Hazel was left with no alternative
At the outset, Hazel wrote to Northern Ireland Water about the circumstances of her accident, but after getting nowhere with them she instructed this firm to pursue a claim for compensation on her behalf. A letter of claim was sent to both Department for Regional Development and Northern Ireland Water who had taken over responsibility for maintenance of the manholes in question.
Northern Ireland Water advised that they relied on the Department for Regional Development to carry out the inspections of the manholes on a regular basis and that they were not notified of any defects. It was the case of the defendant that this area had been inspected regularly and that the defect must have arisen between inspection cycles.
No offer from either DRD or NIW
Medical reports were obtained on behalf of Hazel and legal proceedings were issued in the case.
The matter ultimately came up for trial. At the hearing of the case, both defendant’s declined to make any offer of compensation. Maintaining that they had a reasonable system of inspection in place.
Cross examination reveals truth
The defendant maintained their position that the defect had arisen between inspection cycles. Upon cross examination the representative from the Department of Regional Development indicated that this area was meant to be inspected every two months. However, it was admitted that due to staff shortages and lack of overtime it was only inspected on a three monthly cycle. Furthermore, the representative indicated that he would usually walk to the end of the cul-de-sac to inspect it. It was put to him that the edge which was a tripping hazard was on the far side of the approach that he would take.
Judge rules in favour of Hazel
Finding in favour of Hazel, the judge was very critical of the inspection which was carried out by the defendant and ruled that Hazel receive £12,500 compensation with liability apportioned on a 50/50 basis between both defendants.