06 Mar Your responsibilities as a woodland owner
The following is for information only. If you have any concerns you are advised to consult a solicitor with knowledge of countryside law.
Someone injured through your negligence can bring an action for damages against you in a civil court. If you are found negligent, you may be ordered to pay compensation for loss of earnings, medical expenses, pain, suffering and the like. Individuals can face prosecution in a criminal court for not complying with legal duties imposed by government legislation. You can be fined, or even face imprisonment if found guilty in a criminal court.
Claims for damages after accidents are reported to be on the increase, with solicitors and accident claim practitioners touting for new business by offering ‘no win no fee’ terms. The result is that alleged victims of accidents can sue owners of woods for compensation payments following alleged injuries. Such claims arise from visitors and/or trespassers who suffer injury whilst wandering in woodland – whether remote or not, whether fenced off or not and whether invited or not!
Also, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000 now gives people a new right to walk over large areas of open countryside and common land and means new responsibilities for those who visit and manage these areas.
You are reminded that this policy is for third party property owners liability only, it does not cover injuries to volunteers doing any form of work in your wood, including friends and family members. The law treats them as “employees” even though they are usually unpaid, and you as the “employer”. If you have a requirement for this sort of activity you will need a different insurance cover and should call Clark Thomson for a quotation on 0800 84 94 240 or Beech Tree Insurance on 01273 475 276.
Similarly, contractors doing work in your wood are not covered by this policy. They are legally bound to carry their own public liability insurance and you are advised to ensure they have the appropriate valid cover.
Due to the continuing adverse climate conditions being experienced in the UK owners are reminded that they are advised to inspect their woodlands regularly to assess for damage or disease to ensure the public are safe.
Advice from the Broker is that owners are expected to periodically inspect their properties and keep records of the dates and condition of the woods and trees. Remedial work should be carried out immediately on any suspect trees, etc., and it is advisable to employ a professional to survey the wood on an annual basis and provide owners with a written report.