Case Study: Crash on Ungritted Road

Compensation: £16,650

With JMW's help, a woman has successfully been awarded £16,650 compensation after she was involved in a serious road accident caused by an ungritted road surface.

Miss T had several injuries thanks to a car accident caused by an icy, ungritted road surface.

Miss T experienced a laceration to the back of her head, whiplash symptoms, and disturbed sleep and psychological trauma after being involved in a serious accident in icy conditions caused due to an ungritted road.

The accident

While driving home from work as a Staff Nurse on New Year’s Eve, Miss T noticed three vehicles ahead of her skidding on the road. She attempted to avoid them by moving over to the nearside lane and applying her brakes, however, her vehicle still lost control, skidded past the vehicles that had initially lost control, and flipped over, coming to a rest on its roof at the side of the road.

The injuries suffered by Miss T

Miss T was shocked, and while she was waiting for a fire crew to get her out of her vehicle, she was aware of blood coming from the back of her head. Once out of the vehicle, Miss T struggled to stand up on the road, as it felt very icy underneath her feet. She awaited an ambulance along with the fire crew, which then took Miss T to hospital. Miss T was x-rayed and had the laceration to her scalp glued together.

Building Miss T's case

In the days after the recovery, Miss T decided to seek compensation for her accident, and she was put in touch with JMW Solicitors, where Senior Associate Angela Rowlandson handled her case.

A claim was brought against the local county council for failing to grit the road. However, the council denied liability for the accident. Angela requested that the council send her confirmation of their winter policies for maintaining highways, and found that they were in breach of these policies. The evidence collated from the Met office clearly showed that the area was due to experience icy conditions and provided the council with enough time to properly grit the road Miss T was driving on.

Arranging a medical assessment

Angela arranged for Miss T to be examined by a General Practitioner so that we could have a full picture of her injuries and an idea of her recovery time. This information would help Angela compile a realistic settlement figure on behalf of Miss T. The medical information confirmed that Miss T had sustained a 4-5 cm laceration which had healed in roughly three weeks, reducing down to a 2 cm scar, however, she was left with tenderness around the area of her scar, as well as frequent headaches, which she was told would stop 18 months after the accident. Miss T was also told her whiplash injuries and her psychological symptoms would stop affecting her within 18 months.

Settlement approach

Upon receiving the medical report, Angela suggested that Miss T allow her to approach the council’s solicitors to see if they would settle her claim. This involved presenting them with Miss T’s medical report, as well as the sum of losses Miss T had experienced as a result of the accident, and giving them 21 days in which to make an offer to settle the claim.

The council’s solicitors failed to make an offer in this period, and Angela was forced to issue court proceedings against them.

Building a case

Both Angela and the council’s solicitors prepared their cases in anticipation of taking the case to court, and the council had to ask for several extensions to prepare their defence, which we agreed to. We then exchanged our arguments on the case simultaneously (without witness statements, as these were to be exchanged simultaneously, on a separate date) and the council’s solicitors indicated that gritting which had been carried out two days prior to Miss T’s accident would usually have been sufficient to protect the road and prevent accidents. The council’s solicitors also maintained that they were not in breach of winter policies for maintaining highways. This meant that they continued to deny liability for the accident.

Collecting evidence from witnesses

Angela knew that having every piece of witness evidence possible to hand would be vital in such a case, so she contacted the local fire service to obtain an independent witness statement from one of the fire crew that had been present during the event. This witness statement confirmed information that Miss T had given, stating that the road had been very icy and that his crew had been returning from a previous accident on the other side of the road, when he saw 19 cars, of which Miss T had been one, skidding, due to the iciness of the road.

The council’s solicitors were seeking to get a witness statement from the driver of the gritter lorry responsible for driving that part of the road, and they requested an extension as they had difficulty getting hold of the gritter. In order to do this, they had to apply to the Crown Court to request that the date of the trial be pushed back. In this situation, courts request that both the claimant and defendant solicitors attend an application hearing, however the council’s solicitors failed to attend this hearing and the Court declined their application to have an extension, meaning they had to comply with the initial date given to exchange witness statements.

Finding out who to claim against

Two days before the exchange of witness statements, Angela received a call from the council’s solicitors who said that they had met with two men they were intending to take statements from and had been informed that the claim should have been pursued against the county council which bordered the council that Miss T’s accident happened in. The solicitors advised that this was because, although Miss T’s accident occurred on a road within the boundary of the council we were pursuing the claim against, there is a written gritting policy between the two councils that, due to the fact that it is easier for the other county council to grit this road, they agree to do so. Angela requested sight of this gritting agreement as a matter of urgency, and the council’s solicitors were able to get the Court to agree to move the trial date to accommodate their review of this new information, as long as they paid the costs.

However, on further investigation from the council’s solicitors, it appeared that the part of road in question did fall under the defendant council’s gritting remit. It was at this stage in the case that the defendant council stipulated that the independent contractors they hired to grit the road failed to follow instructions and did not grit the road how they were supposed to, and therefore they felt that responsibility for the accident lay with the contractors.

It was therefore possible for the council to bring the contractors in as a second defendant, however, they failed to approach Angela with a decision on this and so, with the consent of Miss T, Angela decided to propose a second settlement figure to the council’s solicitors. This was intended to progress the case as the council’s solicitors were still not in a position to exchange witness statements, and had not indicated their intentions regarding the contractors.

The settlement offer

However, as Angela was about to put the offer forward, she was contacted by the council’s solicitors with their own proposed settlement offer. After a brief negotiation and discussion between Angela and Miss T, the council’s solicitors made a slightly higher offer of £16,650 which Miss T accepted. This figure took into account the amount of damage caused to her car and the subsequent insurance outlay, her employer’s loss of earnings and of course, Miss T’s injuries caused by the accident. Miss T was pleased with the help that she had received from JMW Solicitors and Angela, and was happy that the case was concluded and she was able to move on with her life.

Have you suffered an accident due to bad weather conditions?

At JMW, we have helped many people who have suffered injury as a consequence of being involved in a winter accident. To speak to one of our experts call 0800 054 6570, or enter your details into our contact form and we will call you back.

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