How An Untidy Garden Ended Up Costing £2000


The Law Of... ensuring safe access to your home

Keeping the garden tidy might be a chore that brings a sigh of dismay whenever the Rhododendron bush starts scratching at the window, but did you know that – as a homeowner – you are responsible for the upkeep of your property, ensuring safe access is provided for all your visitors?

Keeping the garden tidy can be a chore

A Trip and a Visit to Hospital

Lesley, a Postal Worker from Braintree in Essex, tripped and fell while delivering mail in 2011. She was attempting to negotiate the overgrown footpath of one of the properties on her round when her foot became ensnared in a stray bramble, causing her to fall and sustain a soft tissue injury to her left shoulder.

At first, Lesley believed the damage to be insignificant and was able to continue working without too much discomfort. However, the injury failed to improve and she eventually paid a visit to her GP, resulting in a referral to the rheumatology department of Braintree Community Hospital. Following X-rays and an ultrasound scan she was prescribed a course of medication and although this helped, she continued to suffer ongoing issues with her left shoulder.

On behalf of Lesley's Trade Union, the CWU, Gary Tierney – a Personal Injury Solicitor with Simpson Millar – handled Lesley's claim for compensation from the property's owner.

What Does the Law Say?

The law states that a property owner has a duty to ensure that access is maintained to allow safe passage between the premises and the public footway. This is known as a 'common duty of care' and is defined in Section 2 of the Occupiers' Liability Act, 1957, as:

  • A duty to take such care that in all reasonable circumstances, the visitor will be safe in using the premises for the purposes for which he/she is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there.
For landlords, the law is covered by Section 4 of the Defective Premises Act, 1972, which states:

  • Where premises are let under a tenancy, the landlord has an obligation to the tenant for the maintenance or repair of the premises, owing to anybody who might be affected by defects in the state of the premises a duty to ensure they are reasonably safe from personal injury or from damage to their property caused by a relevant defect.
In Lesley's case, the premises was unoccupied at the time of the accident and the front garden had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. The fact the property was unoccupied did not negate the owner's responsibility, as they had breached their common duty of care by:

  • Permitting the garden to become overgrown to the extent it caused a hazard to those using the path
  • Failing to tidy the garden, making it safe for visitors to gain access to the front door
  • Failing to prevent visitors using the path while the garden was in a state of disrepair
  • Failing to provide an alternative point of delivery for mail
  • Failing to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of the claimant

What is the Time Limit for Personal Injury Claims?

There is a 3 year window from the date of your accident in which to make a personal injury claim. We always recommend that you start proceedings sooner rather than later as the details of the incident are more likely to be fresh in the minds of any witnesses you may rely on.

A Satisfactory Conclusion

The defendant in this case owned another nearby property and proved difficult to locate. On behalf of the claimant Gary Tierney used a variety of available resources to track them down and, despite the defendant's initial refusal to respond to letters, negotiated a settlement of £2000.

Commenting on the outcome, Lesley said:

"I was very pleased with the service provided by Simpson Millar. They kept me informed as my case progressed and I was extremely satisfied with the compensation I received for my accident."

"People in similar situations should realise that compensation for an accident can be pursued, without any stress, so long as you have a good solicitor working on your behalf."

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