Accidents in a Public Place – common questions

If I claim for a slip or trip injury, who do I claim against?

If you have a slip or trip accident, then you would look to direct your claim to the occupier of the premises of which your accident occurred on. To consider who this is, you have to look at factors such as who owns the property, who has control over it, and who is responsible for inspecting/maintaining it.

For example, if you had an accident in a supermarket, then in the first instance the claim would be directed to them as the owner and occupier. If however you had an accident in a bar or pub, then the owner of the premises (the landlord) would not always be the first port of call, as quite often it is a different company who occupies and has control over the day-to-day running of it.

What should I do now that I have had a Slip, Trip or Fall?

One of the most important things to do after you have had such an accident is to take clear photographs of the hazard or defect that has caused your accident, and the area that it is located in. It is also important to take photographs showing the measurements of the defect (more so for tripping accidents) as this is your evidence to prove that there was a dangerous hazard/defect present and how severe it was at the time of your accident.

You should also take the names and contact details of anyone who witnessed your accident or even just helped you up/was around after it happened. This is to allow you to be able to request them to provide witness evidence regarding your accident and the condition of the accident locus for your claim should this be required. If possible, it is generally better if such evidence can be provided by someone who is not a relative or close friend as then it can be classed as being independent and unbiased.

Further to the above, you should also look to report the accident to the owner of the premises so that they have a record of the incident occurring. It is best if this can be done in writing/via email so you have a hard copy of your correspondence with them. If however you can only do this via phone, you should ensure to record as much detail as possible from your conversation with them, including the date/time called, the name of the person you spoke to, any reference numbers, details of what was discussed and what they advised they were going to do following your call.

It is important to remember that the burden of proof for these matter rest upon you as the claimant and so it is important to obtain any retain any hard evidence that may assist with trying to prove liability in your favour should the need arise.

In what circumstances can I claim compensation after a Slip, Trip or Fall?

If there is a dangerous defect/hazard present and this was the direct cause of your accident and injuries, then you can look to make a claim. Whether you are successful in this claim however will be dependent of whether you can prove that the defect/hazard was there as a result of the Defendant’s negligence and/or breach of duty of care. As such, it is important to manage your expectations regarding such claims and remember that just because an accident occurs, it doesn’t automatically mean that someone has been negligent and that there is an automatic right to compensation.

Isn’t a trip only a minor accident?

This is very much dependant on the circumstances of the individual who has the trip. Whilst one person could be caused to trip and just sustain a minor injury like bruising, another person could suffer a much more severe injury that affects their day-to-day life for a significant period of time. As such, it is important not to dismiss a tripping accident as just being a minor incident.

I tripped on a poorly maintained pavement, who is responsible?

In the majority of cases, the local council is responsible for inspecting and maintaining pavements. If the pavement however is on premises owned by a company such as a supermarket, then they would usually be the responsible party.

In cases where the council are responsible, you have to firstly be able to show that they have breached section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 which says they have a ‘Duty to maintain highways maintainable at public expense’. Essentially this means you have to show that there is a defect in the pavement that caused you to trip that would be classed as being ‘dangerous’ and ‘hazardous’. In a lot of cases, this is done by showing that the defect was at least 1 inch deep.

Secondly, you need to consider what systems of inspections and maintenance the council have in place to look for such a defect and whether they have reasonably adhered to them. The frequency that these are carried out depends upon how busy the highway is. Basically the higher the footfall, the more frequent the inspection.

I slipped in a supermarket, can I claim?

Most supermarkets have systems of inspection and ‘Clean As You Go’ Policies in place to check for any hazards on the premises and to clean any up that they come across in between inspections.

In order to be successful in such a scenario, you would need to be able to show that the supermarket has not reasonably adhered to their regimes and that this caused your accident. Whilst this can be difficult to do in some circumstances, others can be successful if you can obtain the necessary evidence in order to prove the same. This could be in the form of independent witness evidence or CCTV to show that the hazard was present on their premises for an unreasonable amount of time.

What information will be required to put a slip, trip or fall claim together?

The basic details required to set up a claim are as follows:

  • Your personal details
  • Accident date, location and description
  • Photographs of the defect (preferably with measurements if applicable) and of the accident location
  • Name and contact details for any witnesses to the accident or for any one who can provide evidence regarding the defect/hazard and how long it has been present for
  • Details of the injuries sustained along with medical attention/treatment sought
  • Name and address of the party responsible for the accident locus.

What will I be claiming for if I trip or fall?

The aim of a claim for compensation is to put you back into the position that you would have been in had it not been for the accident/injuries sustained and is split into two different heads of claim.

The first is ‘General Damages’, which is for your pain, suffering and loss of amenity. The second is ‘Special Damages’, which are your reasonable losses and expenses incurred as a direct result of your accident and injury. You can also claim for any losses you may have in the future.

It is important to remember that you are always under a duty to mitigate your loss. For example, this could mean undertaking physiotherapy to aid your recovery and reduce the time your symptoms last for, or possibly even taking public transport to a medical appointment instead of a taxi.

How are slipping claims assessed?

Slipping claims are assessed by firstly looking at what caused the slip. If it can be classed as being a hazard/danger, you then need to look at how long it has been there. If it has been there for an unreasonable amount of time, you can look to argue that the Defendants have been negligent and breached their duty of care to you, as a lawful visitor to their premises, in keeping you safe.

Basically, you have to look at whether they did all that they reasonably could in the circumstances to prevent a foreseeable accident from occurring. Examples of which could include looking at what systems of inspection and maintenance they have in place to pick up and deal with any such hazards.

How long will a claim of this type take?

This is very much like asking the old question, ‘how long is a piece of string’. Due to every claim and individual’s circumstances being so different, there is no set timescale. Cases can run from anywhere between 9 months to a few years depending on how straight forward it is and whether the need to litigate the matter arises.

Some other factors that can affect the length of a claim include whether liability is admitted or denied, whether the Defendant allege contributory negligence (suggesting the claimant has done something to contribute to the accident occurring), the complexity of the injury, any ongoing or recommended treatment/investigations into such injuries, and if you require to see more than one type of independent medical expert.

As such, it is very difficult for your Solicitor to advise how long your claim will take. They will however look to keep you updated regarding the progression and next steps of your claim as soon as possible when this information arises.

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