Q. If you administer first aid and do some sort of damage in the process are you liable?

 A. The law looks differently at a nominated first aider and an innocent bystander in the right place at the right time and who intervenes to help. Generally, a trained first aider would be expected to demonstrate a higher level of knowledge and expertise than Joe Bloggs on the street who steps in to help.

If the first aider can prove that they took reasonable care, they are unlikely to be found to have breached their duty of care to the ill or injured person. For the bystander, there may be a strong instinct to intervene and help, but the law will still judge the level of care provided.

If there  is a failure to take reasonable care, such as breaking a rib when giving the Heimlich manoeuvre, then you could be liable for that injury.  By starting treatment you are accepting a responsibility for the wellbeing of the person you are treating.

Put simply, it is not considered sufficient for a well-meaning person to do their incompetent best.

– Richard Wilson, Partner in the Personal Injury team

Q. If my neighbour’s tree overhangs into my garden, do they have a responsibility to cut it back?

A. The boundary line is the deciding factor in this issue – if branches or roots cross the boundary of your property, you are entitled to cut them back – but at your own cost.

Under Common Law, a neighbour can’t be compelled to carry out this work, but in the spirit of amicable relations, we would advise a friendly discussion of the matter before taking any steps.

Trees protected by Tree Preservation Orders and land in Conservation Areas requires a much closer look at the law before any work is undertaken.  We would advise getting professional advice in these cases.

– Zara Banday, Partner and Head of Residential Property

Q. How closely does a signature need to resemble the original to be legally passable?

A. In this digital age, the handwritten signature has been in decline for many years and this fact became more apparent when the Law Commission ruled in 2018 that electronic signatures are, in most cases, a ‘viable alternative to handwritten ones’.  To get technical for a minute, recent case law has confirmed that, regardless of the type of signature, if the person’s intention was to authenticate the document, then the signature will be valid.

For instance, when we accept a parcel, the scrawl we use on the delivery driver’s iPad rarely bears a strong resemblance to our physical signature.  Legal documents that previously required manual signatures, such as property sales, credit agreements and the granting of power of attorney can all now be done with the click of a button.

That said, when it comes to signing cheques, the back of credit cards, driving licences and passports etc, we’re still following the old practice of using pen and ink.  For these types of documents, there legally has to be a strong resemblance to the original, which will have been kept on file.

– Daniel Wise, Associate Partner in the Dispute Resolution team

Q. In an emergency if you are caught speeding to a hospital, is it still illegal?

A. There are misconceptions around this urban myth – speeding to the hospital is still illegal and is not a defence in law. However, special reasons can be put forward to avoid a penalty. This means that the circumstances outlined give the Court the discretion to not endorse a licence with points or disqualify someone from driving despite the offence being admitted.

In fact, these special reasons can actually be applied to all driving offences and must satisfy the following criteria: Mitigating or extenuating circumstance, an explanation that is not a defence in law and the reasons are directly connected to the offence.  The Court must consider these circumstances when sentencing.

If you are pulled over by the Police on an emergency dash to hospital that is clearly obvious, I would hope that a sensible approach is taken!  It has been known for police to give a blue light escort for women in labour too!

– Hannah Costley, Solicitor in the Crime & Regulatory team

Speak with a legal expert

Here at Slater Heelis, we deal with the law day in, day out, while many people try to avoid coming into bother with the law.

If something has happened and you think you may either take or face legal action, reach out to us and we will see if we can help, or point you in the direction of an organisation who can.