If an accident happens visiting a historic site, can the injured person make a successful personal injury claim against the organisation?

Many of you may be English Heritage or National Trust members. These fantastic organisations help to maintain some of our national treasures including historic castles and ancient sites. You can't beat a relaxing day out visiting one of these places. However, an accident on such a day out can result in tragedy. If an accident does happen, can the injured person make a successful personal injury claim against the organisation?

Accident at Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight

On 11 April 2011 Mr Taylor, aged nearly 60, was visiting the castle. He decided to walk down an informal path leading from an elevated canon firing platform to a grass pathway below.

Unfortunately, Mr Taylor lost his footing and fell over a wall into a moat. He fell some 12 feet and suffered a serious head injury.

Mr Taylor's Case against English Heritage

Mr Taylor made a personal injury claim against English Heritage. His case was that the area was dangerous and that he should have been warned of the danger by means of a sign. He contended that he was effectively lured unknowingly down the path without fully appreciating the danger of falling a significant distance.

Wasn't this all just his own fault? Do English Heritage and the like have to put signs up everywhere warning of dangers?

The Trial

The trial Judge visited the castle before considering that English Heritage was liable for failing to warn visitors by means of a sign of the danger which gave rise to the accident.

Mr Taylor therefore won his case, but he was found to have been 50% to blame. This meant that his personal injury compensation was reduced by 50%.

The Court of Appeal

English Heritage appealed to the Court of Appeal. It argued that if the decision stood, it and similar organisations would be under pressure to put up lots of unsightly warning signs everywhere and that that was contrary to public interest.

The Court of Appeal rejected English Heritage's appeal. The Court felt that the risk Mr Taylor took was that he would lose his balance and fall on a steep grassy slope. They considered however, that the risk of falling 12 feet down a sheer drop was altogether more serious and that there should have been a sign to warn people about the sheer drop.

This case does not mean that English Heritage and the like have to put up unsightly signs all over the place. However, they should take reasonable precautions and put signs up where appropriate where the risks justify doing so.

When enjoying our days out we must all take responsibility for ourselves. We cannot expect to make a successful personal injury claim when really the accident was our fault. However, we can expect English Heritage and other organisations to take reasonable measures to take care of our safety so that days out don't end up in tragedy.