Footbridge safety: slippery when wet. Walk, don’t run, and always hold the hand rail.

A person is liable in damages for an accident if there is damnum injuria datum– loss caused by wrong. For there to be a wrong, there must be a duty of care- if it is reasonably forseeable that the wrong, negligent failure to take a reasonable precaution, may cause an accident, and the accident happens, then there is liability.

The footbridge at Bedford station is not particularly slippery, but if someone did slip or trip on it, the question of liability is whether there was a reasonable precaution to take which had a good chance of preventing the fall or the hurt. Such a precaution might be, covering the surface with something less slippery.

That precaution would still be available whether or not there are warning signs of the risk. What caused the accident? The carelessness of the person who fell, or the slipperiness of the surface? Both. The person who walks or runs over the footbridge is aware that surfaces can be slippery.

I find the warning signs patronising, as if I do not know that hurrying on a slippery surface increases the risk of falling. So, placing the warning sign there is not a useful precaution to prevent accidents. It tells no-one anything they do not know already. Instead, its purpose is to blame the other. You hurried, you fell, it is your fault: it attempts a moral defence. It is not effective as a legal one: in law the question is whether a different surface is a reasonable precaution against accidents.

That works, for me, as a moral argument. Our society is too litigious. The solicitors’ haiku:

 Have you stubbed your toe?

There must be someone to blame.

Come. Sue him with us.

But then, I have slipped and fallen in the street but not injured myself.

Actually, I felt my usual irritation seeing that on the station foot bridge, but by the time I was down the stairs- shockingly, without holding the hand rail, you will be glad to know that I was uninjured- I had forgotten it. I stood on the platform for ten minutes, enjoying the sunshine, the quiet and the trees.

Also on Bedford: it is a much better shopping centre than Swanston, with Next and M&S, but I could not be bothered. A few days before, I had got chatting to a man on the bus when I went to shut the window and he objected. He told me that he had moved from Bedford because it was full of “supplicants”. I dislike his use of the term- we talk of benefit “claimants” because there is a moral right to a reasonable level of support, which one “claims” rather than begs.

5 thoughts on “Bedford

  1. Hi Clare,

    I too am given pause for thought by this strange culture in which an “accident “is no longer deemed permissible. It must always be someone’s fault, a situation  in which one side conceeds blame and the other pockets some cash. 

     My son fell over on an all weather pitch (notoriously abrasive) while playing football at university. He was upset, in pain, and still bleeding when he showed me his injuries by Skype. Feeling helpless and far away, I tried to find out by telephone who could administer first aid, but found the university’s late night spokespersons  guarded, and more conscious of possible compensation claims than concerned to patch him up and heal his hurt.

    I travelled up next day with a box of dressings and as much sympathy as I could permit myself without bursting into tears. Did the job myself. Accidents happen. I didn’t blame the university. I just hated their lack of compassion, the inevitable result of a sensitivity towards possible litigation, which I personally found insulting.

    Anyway. Of all the bloggers I follow, you are easily the most inspired, the most prolific, and thought-provoking. Do keep on.




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