Ice and snow - work, accidents and the law

Ice and snow – work, accidents and the law

Cold and icy weather can lead to a multitude of problems during the Winter and early Spring months in Ireland. On top of the longer nights, they make a difficult situation worse. Accidents on the road are more common and slips and trips on pavements can increase when the weather turns below freezing. November, December and January have the highest number of car insurance claims and it is estimated that there is a 25% increase in car insurance claims in November when compared with April. Slips and falls can increase by 10-15% in icy conditions with a corresponding increase in the demands on the ambulance and A and E services. What are the legal implications of ice and snow - at work and in accidents.

What are my legal obligations when driving a car in the snow and ice?

These are set out in the Highway Code. They include:

  • Using your headlights when visibility is seriously reduced
  • Using fog lights if necessary
  • Increasing stopping distances (as much as 10 times than those for dry roads)
  • Ensuring your car is clear of ice and snow so that your visibility is not adversely affected and your number plates are clear and legible
  • Be careful when overtaking
  • Ensure your tyres are in good working order

When conditions are harsh, you should only go out on the roads if your journey is absolutely necessary and you should always carry in your car an emergency kit to include de icer, ice scraper, torch, warm clothes and boots, first aid kit, jump leads, a shovel and some liquid and food for emergencies should you get stuck. Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have a charging lead with you.

I cannot get to work due to icy conditions – is my employer obliged to pay me?

You should first see if you can work remotely and if so, obtain your employers consent to do so. If this is impossible, then whether you get paid or not will depend on your contract of employment. Unless there is provision in your contract of employment that obliges the employer to pay you in such circumstances, they are under no duty to pay you if you are unable to get to work. You may be able to get day off as annual leave but that is at your employer’s discretion.

My child’s school is closed – do I still have to come to work?

You will be entitled to take dependant leave but this is likely to be unpaid unless there is provision for payment in your contract of employment.

My workplace is freezing – can I insist the office is warmer?

The regulations state that working conditions should be kept at a reasonable temperature and that temperature will depend on the type of work you do. The Health and Safety Executive state that workplaces should be heated to at least 16 C. If you work out of doors, there are no minimum temperatures but your employer would have to ensure that you have adequate clothing and PPE and access to hot drinks.

My car skidded in icy road conditions and was damaged. I was also hurt. The road was not gritted. Do I have a claim for compensation?

The Department does have a duty to take reasonable care in keeping the roads clear – including in icy and snowy conditions. However that is a general duty and depends on the resources available to clear and grit the road, the nature of the weather event, how busy the road is normally and what can reasonably be expected of the public authority. In addition there will be a duty on the driver to take into account the weather conditions when driving (such as speed, stopping distances etc) and if the driver fails to do so, the value of any potential claim will be adversely affected.

I slipped and hurt myself on an icy pavement in town. Do I have a claim for compensation?

The local authority or council does have a responsibility to ensure pavements and public footpaths are kept in a safe and satisfactory condition – including in bad weather. They must take whatever steps are reasonably practicable but are not obligated to keep them totally clear of ice and snow. Such claims can be difficult.

I slipped and fell on ice when walking up the steps to the entrance of my employer’s offices. I sprained my arm and hurt my shoulder. Do I have a claim for compensation?

Yes – you may well have. Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and under occupier’s liability legislation they also have a duty to ensure that employees and visitors are safe when walking into or around their premises. This includes keeping steps reasonably free of ice and snow in wintry conditions and failure to remove it may create an actionable hazard and a claim for compensation.

I slipped and fell on ice on the entrance to a shop I was entering. Do I have a claim for compensation?

Yes – you may well have. Occupier’s liability legislation imposes a duty on the shopkeeper to ensure that shoppers are safe when accessing or walking around their shop. In wintry conditions, this would include removing ice and snow where it is a hazard. However the duty imposed on the shopkeeper is to take reasonable care for the safety of any shoppers entering the shop. If a shopkeeper has taken reasonable steps then that may be a defence to any action.

Do I have to keep my driveway or path to my house free of ice and snow and what is the position if someone slips or falls on it?

Under the occupier’s liability legislation, householders do have a duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that people on their property are safe. If you are clearing snow from your path or driveway, try to ensure that you dispose of the snow safely where it does not create another hazard as that could lead to problems for the householder. Similarly if you clearing ice, do not use hot water – this will only freeze again and that may create a liability for the householder if someone sustains injury on the reformed ice. The Government do have a Snow Code and it is worthwhile following its Guidelines.

What should I do if I have an accident?

  1. Seek medical attention if necessary. The medical records can also be used at a later date as evidence in your case.
  2. Take photos of the area where you hurt yourself.
  3. Report your accident to the owner of the premises or the organisation responsible for the area in question.
  4. If there are witnesses, get their contact details and leave them yours.
  5. Talk to your solicitor.

What compensation will I receive for injuries sustained in an accident?

This will depend on the nature of your injuries and your financial loss. It will include:

  1. Compensation for your injuries. The amount depends on how serious your injuries were and how long it takes you to recover from them.
  2. All your medical expenses, now and into the future.
  3. Any loss of earnings, now and into the future.
  4. The costs of any adaptions to your home or car because of your injuries.
  5. Any care costs that have been or will be incurred because of your injuries.
  6. Any other expenses.

How long do I have to make a claim?

Normally you have three years from the date of your injury. However:

  1. If your child sustains injury, a claim can be made any time before the child reaches the age of 18. Once your child reaches the age of 18, they have a further three years to make a claim themselves until they reach the age of 21.
  2. If the person who sustains the injury does not have mental capacity then there are no time limits.

Why Kearney Law?

We at Kearney Law are ready to assist you and have the knowledge and expertise you need to make a successful claim for compensation. We have an expert team ready to deal with your accident.  We will ensure you recover compensation for your injuries, swiftly and professionally.

We only do personal injury law and are experts at it.

For further assistance please ring us at 02890 912 938 or email us on [email protected] or fill in our contact form

The content of this blog is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice. No solicitor/client relationship or duty of care or liability of any nature shall exist or arise between the Kearney Law Group and you and we refer you to our disclaimer on our website.

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