Slips And Falls In The Silly Season
Its that time of year again. Frantic shoppers, busy stores, increased patronage at pubs and clubs, more stock being delivered and unpacked, overstretched employees, and greater potential for accidents. Lets face it, during busy times things sometimes get overlooked.
Many public liability lawyers will tell you that its common to get slip and fall cases early in the year, following the Christmas and Boxing Day peak sales periods.
Public liability is the area of law that deals with slips and falls in public places, such as retail outlets, pubs, restaurants, shopping centres and footpaths. Basically anywhere that is openly accessible to the public. According to the Civil Liability Act, property owners are expected to take a reasonable amount of care to make sure there are no dangerous conditions on the property that could cause somebody to be injured.
Some common hazards include spills and leaks, poor lighting, uneven flooring such as bunched-up carpet, and wet floors caused by rainy weather.
If you do sustain an injury in a public place, you may be able to claim financial compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, past and future wage loss, and special needs like domestic assistance.
Of course, just suffering an injury in a public place doesnt automatically make you a candidate for compensation. It depends. You must be able to prove that the property owner or manager was negligent, and that your own behaviour was normal and not unsafe. If the Court finds that you contributed to your accident then it will reduce the amount of compensation you receive accordingly. Its called contributory negligence.
The law says you have a responsibility for monitoring your environment and keeping a reasonable look-out for hazards.
That said, retail outlets are required to regularly check the environment for potential dangers. There must be a reasonable system of cleaning and inspection. These days, CCTV can help dangerous situations to be discovered quickly, as well as capturing evidence of what occurred in slip and fall cases.
Its never cut and dry. Each case will always depend on its own unique facts. For example, if a spill resulted in someone slipping and becoming injured, the length of time the spill was there could be a factor in determining liability.
Having evidence is crucial. Eye witness accounts will help your case, as will photos of any injuries, and records of medical consultations and lost wages.
And to be awarded financial compensation your injury needs to be sufficiently serious. There are set injury thresholds. A sprained wrist that heals in a few weeks will probably not suffice.
The message is; take care. For retail outlets; Christmas is no time to get complacent about safety standards. For consumers; keep a look-out for hazards.