Council road/ footpath injury claims

Thursday 31 January 2019
Linda Hanley

Have you suffered an injury while walking, jogging or running on a Council road or footpath?  If yes, there are some things you need to know about making a claim for compensation against Councils.

Local Councils are responsible for the management of roads and footpaths within their catchments to ensure the safety of road users and pedestrians. In order to bring a successful public liability claim against a Council, you need to establish that:

  1. you suffered an injury;
  2. you suffered an injury that is considered a “significant injury” at law and;
  3. you suffered a “significant injury” as a result of the negligence of the Council and/or the relevant Council breached its statutory duty.

The legislation that governs this area of law is known as the Road Management Act 2004 (Vic) (RMA). The RMA imposes a statutory duty on Councils to construct, inspect, maintain and repair a public road/ footpath; however, the Council determines the standard of work completed.  This standard must be stipulated in a Road Management Plan (RMP). 

As a result, “the standard of care that is expected of Councils is very low” according to Linda Hanley, Associate at Adviceline Injury Lawyers and Chinese injuries practice leader. 

“In particular the Council is only required to do what a reasonable Council would do in their circumstances.

Given the high volume of roads and footpaths that the Council is required to manage at any given time, the implication for a potential litigant is that it is very difficult to demonstrate that the Council was negligent and/or breached its statutory duty,” said Linda.

To create further obstacles, in circumstances where it can be found that the Council was negligent and breached its statutory duty, the Council has a number of defences available to it.  In particular:

  1. Unless a Council had actual knowledge of the hazard at the time of the incident, it would not be held liable (Section 102 of the RMA).
  2. A Council is not liable where an act or omission complies with a policy (i.e. policies determined by the relevant Minister or road authority) (Section 103 of the RMA).
  3. A Council is not liable if it can be established that it took the care that a reasonable Council would reasonably be required to take in ensuring that the public road was not dangerous (Section 105 of the RMA).

Despite being an unfavourable area of law for someone who has suffered an injury on a Council road or footpath, it is still nonetheless, worthwhile to speak to an injuries expert for advice on your potential claim. 

Adviceline Injury Lawyers offers free advice on dedicated lawyer hotline (03) 9321 9988. 

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