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Arctic weather conditions lead to an avalanche of personal injury claims (1.2.2010)

As the icy roads begin to thaw out insurance companies are bracing themselves for a flood of claims. The extreme weather conditions experienced in Ireland over the last few weeks has given rise to an unprecedented number of road traffic accidents and individuals slipping and falling on icy surfaces.

Taking care on the roads
Extreme weather conditions do not relieve drivers of their responsibilities to other road users. In fact, it could be said that an increased responsibility is placed on drivers to take extra care, such as allowing for extra braking distances between vehicles and driving with extreme caution. A driver cannot absolve himself of blame by relying on poor driving conditions when his car skids on an icy road for instance causing injury to other road users, passengers or pedestrians. 

What happens if a person is injured where no other vehicle is involved?
Can a person that suffers injuries in circumstances where no other vehicle is involved make a claim for compensation? A significant number of accidents recently have been single car collisions invariably occurring where a vehicle looses grip on an icy road careering into a ditch, tree, wall or some other solid object. Clearly, the driver of such a vehicle is not in a position to make a claim, save making a claim under a comprehensive insurance policy in respect of the damage to the vehicle itself. Local authorities are under an obligation to maintain roads but are not reasonably expected or indeed obliged to clear or ‘grit' every road. In limited circumstances, such as where a leak from a building or pipe caused water to escape onto the road which then ices over for example, then the driver may be able to maintain a claim for any injury sustained as a result. 

Passenger claims in single vehicle accidents
A passenger that has sustained injuries in a single vehicle collision may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. The claim is usually made against the driver/owner of the vehicle and is dealt with in most cases by the driver/owner's insurance company. Where a driver is uninsured a claim is made to the Motor Insurer's Bureau of Ireland.

Slips and falls on icy walkways
Persons slipping and falling on icy footpaths and walkways have been the cause of a considerable number of injuries in recent weeks. But is it possible to recover compensation for the injuries sustained? It should be noted that it is unreasonable to expect local authorities to be able to clear every road and footpath of ice and snow and as a result local authorities enjoy a general exemption from liability for slip and fall accidents caused by the weather. However, different considerations apply at places of work where a safe place of work must be provided or for example on private property. In addition, if for example private individuals or businesses clear an entrance or pathway of ice and snow and someone slips and falls, then the business or homeowner could potentially face a claim if an injury is caused as a result.

For further information contact Robert Bourke, Partner or Áine McSweeney, Solicitor of our Personal Injury Litigation Department.
 

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