Complaints about accidents in supermarkets, shops, and similar places are very common. The typical scenario is the customer who slips on the stray grape or spillage in an aisle. The belief that the shop is then automatically liable to compensate the customer for the resulting injury is also common, but as with so much in law, it?s not that straightforward.
Broadly speaking, the shop owner has a duty under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 to take all ?reasonable? steps to see that the shop premises are ?reasonably safe? for everyone who is invited to use them. That duty applies to all those whom the owner invites or allows into the shop for the purposes permitted by him; eg. shopping or looking around, delivering goods, even popping in to ask the staff for directions.
The crucial word, as so often in legal claims, is ?reasonable?. In other words, the shop owner does not have to ensure the premises are pristine; he cannot and does not have to ensure there is never any hazard of any kind in the shop; he does not have to have an army of staff posted in every aisle ready to respond instantly to any spillage. He only has to do what is ?reasonable?.
In practice, this means that provided the shop has a reasonable system of regular inspection and cleaning and that the staff follow it and can prove they did, then the unlucky customer who nevertheless slips on the stray grape or leaking water is unlikely to have a valid claim.
However, never assume that just because the shop belongs to a big household-name chain, they will be bullet-proof. It is by no means unknown for large supermarkets to have detailed procedures written down in a manual sitting on an office shelf somewhere collecting dust, but be unable to prove at shop-floor level that the local staff actually followed them. See those checklists posted in the loos at Sainsbury?s, MacDonalds, etc? Are they always up to date? Do they always have someone?s signature on them every hour as they state?
A good solicitor will know this and will invite the shop to disclose its paperwork to demonstrate that their procedures have been dutifully followed. It is surprising just how often stores are unable to show that they have complied, which means the lawyer can then press home the evidential advantage, inviting the shop to concede liability and acknowledge the validity of the client?s personal injury claim.
Other causes of injury may be easier to succeed on. If you are injured by a broken shop fitting or part of the premises, as opposed to slipping on a spillage of some sort, it is usually more difficult for the owner to show that a proper system has been followed. By definition, such breakages are likely to have been there longer than a spillage, and so should have been noticed and fixed long before your accident.
If you are unlucky enough to be injured in any shop, supermarket or similar place, try to ensure that:-
you tell the manager about your accident there and then- insist he makes a written record of the accident and the injuries sustained. Make sure both he and you sign it and get a copy if you can;
you get names and addresses of anyone who saw your accident, whether they are other shoppers or members of staff; witnesses can be vital to successfully making a personal injury claim;
you identify what caused you to fall or slip or otherwise suffer injury; get a photo if you can;
you note whether there were any warning signs nearby;
If your injuries are such that you cannot do all this, get someone else to do it for you. As a last resort, get them to go back to the shop as soon as possible and do it.
Finally, speak to an experienced lawyer as soon as you can. Our specialist solicitors have many years of experience dealing with this type of personal injury claim and we can give you free initial advice about making a claim for compensation. And don?t forget, we deal with accident claims on a No Win – No Fee basis, guaranteeing that the client receives 100% of their compensation and offering a unique ?cash upfront? scheme whereby we will pay you up to £1,000 ?upfront? whilst the case is being settled.