Personal Injury: cost cutting - a factor in fatal road accident?

20 February 2012

The BBC recently reported on the sad case of a 19 year old UK serviceman, home on leave, who was killed after being struck by a car on an unlit road in the early hours of Christmas Day.  North Somerset Council had implemented a cost saving scheme whereby street lighting is turned off in certain areas between the hours of midnight and 05.00. Members of the soldier’s family believe that that the part-night street lighting scheme was a factor in his death.

In the current difficult economic climate, the need for cost savings is old news.  However, could this Local Authority be leaving itself open to potential personal injury claims should road users be injured on its public highways during these ‘black-out’ hours?

Local Authorities have a duty to maintain public highways to ensure they are safe for road users.  This begs the question: where street lamps have been installed, presumably indicating that at some point in the past a decision was made that that the route needed to be lit, could a failure to illuminate such lighting, constitute a breach of the Local Authority’s duty of care?

North Somerset Council says that the reduction was carefully considered and investigated and will save more than £230,000 in its first two years.  However, if the scheme leads to an increase in personal injury or fatal accident claims against the Council, will there really be a saving?  Whilst the majority of injuries sustained on an unlit road are likely to be minor injuries as a result of tripping and slipping, it is easy to see that there is a potential for serious spinal, orthopaedic or neurological injury.  Patients with such serious injuries are likely to have long term care needs and their claims can easily attract compensation well in excess of the cost saving quoted.  Only time will tell if North Somerset Council’s part-time lighting scheme will stand up to scrutiny by the courts and indeed, if it really does end up saving the Council money.

Kingsley Napley’s clinical negligence and personal injury team acts for people who have sustained injuries as a result of medical negligence and as a result of negligently caused accidents.  If you have been injured as a result of negligence, please contact the clinical negligence and personal injury team on 020 7814 1200 to see if we can help.   

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