Accidents in shops, supermarkets and shopping malls are very common. The typical scenario is the customer who slips on a spillage on the floor or who trips over. People often assume that the shop is automatically liable to compensate the customer for the resulting injury, but it’s not that straightforward. If someone has an accident in a shop it doesn’t necessarily mean they can sue for compensation. This is why it is important to seek help from a specialist firm of solicitors.
Broadly speaking, the shop owner or the shopping centre must take all “reasonable” steps to make sure the premises are “reasonably safe” for everyone using them. This includes not just shoppers but also people who are delivering goods or just popping in to ask for directions.
The crucial word is “reasonable”. In other words, the shop owner does not have to ensure the premises are pristine They don’t have to ensure that the shop is free of any kind of hazard. Nor are they required to have an army of staff posted in every aisle ready to respond instantly to any spillage. They only have to do what is “reasonable”.
In practice, this means that provided the shop has a satisfactory 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 spillage may not have a valid legal claim.
However, never assume that just because the shop belongs to a big household-name chain, they will be bullet-proof when it comes to safety inspections. Large shops and supermarkets frequently have detailed written procedures but will be unable to prove at shop-floor level that staff actually followed them. See those checklists posted in the loos at Sainsbury’s, MacDonalds; are they always up to date? Do they always have someone’s signature on them every hour as they state?
A specialist solicitor know what to look for and what questions to ask. They will invite the shop to disclose its paperwork to prove 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 solicitor can then press home the advantage, inviting the shop to concede liability and agree to pay the injured customer compensation.
Other accident scenarios may be easier to succeed on. If you are injured by a broken shop fitting for instance, it is usually more difficult for the owner to show that a proper system has been followed. Such defects are likely to have been present longer than a spillage and should have been fixed long before your accident.
If you have an accident in a shop, supermarket or shopping mall we would recommend that you:
- tell the manager about your accident and insist they make a written record. Sign it and get a copy if you can;
- 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;
- identify what caused your accident; get a photo if you can; and
- note whether there were any warning signs nearby;
If you cannot do all this yourself, 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, if you have had an accident in a shop it is important to speak to a specialist solicitor as soon as you can. Our team of accident lawyers have many years of experience dealing with shop accidents. They can give you free initial guidance about making a claim for compensation. And don’t forget, we deal with accident claims on a No Win – No Fee basis, so worries about legal costs shouldn’t put you off.
Call our free accident helpline on 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]