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What should I do if I have an accident in a public place?

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What should I do if I have an accident in a public place?

Slips trips and falls can happen anywhere, but if you are injured in a public place through no fault of your own, you may be able to make a claim for compensation.

We see many different types of accident occurring in public places and different legal rules may apply to various different scenarios.

Accidents can occur in public premises such as supermarkets, restaurants, shops, bars etc. and these could be caused by a variety of reasons such as:

  • Spilled products on the floors
  • Freshly washed floors without signage
  • Boxes or other items being left on the floor
  • Uneven walkways or damage to flooring, such as crack or dips in tiles
  • Damage to steps or steps without adequate railings

The occupier of the premises has a duty to keep visitors to their premises reasonably safe and, if you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be able to claim. In order to be successful, you would need to establish that the occupier did not take all reasonable steps to keep you safe. You might do this by looking at whether the following steps were taken:

  • Risk assessments to identify potential hazards
  • Training of staff to look out for hazards
  • Policies and procedures to regularly check for any risks or dangers
  • Regular cleaning and inspection schedules to look out for hazards and clear them up

The law in relation to accidents on privately owned premises which are open to the public are different from the laws applicable to falls on a public highway owned by the local authority as, under The Highways Act, they have a duty to ensure they take all reasonable steps to prevent the users of the highway from being injured. We see many injuries occurring on the public highway caused in a variety of ways such as:

  • Uneven or raised ground and paving flags
  • Potholes causing injury to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians
  • Manhole covers being left uncovered, or damaged covers not being repaired (although this can be the responsibility of other agencies rather than local authorities)

The local authorities are required to have systems of inspection in place and must check for and rectify hazards in a timely manner. The inspection frequency required will vary depending on the location of the roads and paths and how busy the area is. Some roads may only need to be checked once a year but busier areas would be expected to be checked as often as monthly, due to it being a high usage area and the amount of wear and tear caused. The local authority must be able to prove that these checks were carried out if an accident does occur and, for a claim to be successful, you would need to demonstrate that the authorities failed to adhere to their duties. In addition, you would also need to show that the defect which caused the incident is sufficiently dangerous to have warranted repair by the local authority if identified on inspection. The general rule is that defects must be over one inch deep on the pavement to warrant repair and over two inches deep in the road, but this will depend on the circumstances of the case. 

If you have been injured in a public place and would like to see if you have a claim, you can call our new business advisors to have a chat and get some advice with no obligation, on 0161 696 6235.

By Donna Wilkes, new business advisor