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Slips and trips – your rights and what to do if you have an accident

It has recently been unseasonably mild and wet in the UK. With very poor weather comes wet and slippery floors in supermarkets, shopping centres, train stations and other public places. Whilst every effort is usually made to ensure that spillages are dealt with quickly, floor mats are put down and wet floor signs are put out, even the most diligent of occupiers cannot avoid every slipping accident.

Many people will be out in the January sales or simply enjoying their time off work by going to the cinema or eating out in restaurants. Individuals should be aware of their legal rights and what they should do if they have an accident or witness an accident.

The Law

Under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957, occupiers have a duty to ensure that lawful visitors to their premises are reasonably safe. An occupier is anyone who owns or has control over a premise and could include anything from a building site to a supermarket. Occupiers’ liability accidents, as they are commonly known by lawyers, can be wide ranging and can include customers slipping on food or a wet floor in a shop or restaurant.

Injuries and losses

The most unexpected or simplest of slipping accidents can lead to very serious injuries. I have dealt with many such claims with individuals suffering from a simple twist or sprain to an ankle, to serious back injuries as well as dislocated or broken bones. Sometimes the most minor of injuries can have serious consequences, particularly financial, if the injured person cannot travel to work which then leads to time off work and lost earnings.

Some Simple Advice

If you are unfortunate enough to have an accident here are a few simple tips to follow to ensure that a claim is successful:

  • Most importantly, report your accident as soon as possible to a member of staff. Every shopping centre, supermarket, cinema or train station should have an accident report book. If the accident is reported immediately by the individual involved, it gives far more weight and credibility to the claim at the outset. Even when a solicitor is instructed immediately, it still could be 6-8 weeks before the defendant is formally notified about the accident and by this time any CCTV may no longer be available.
  • Take several photographs of the accident location immediately. If this is not possible, return to the accident location as soon as you can to take photographs. These should include long and short shot photographs of the accident location and of the surrounding area.
  • Make a detailed description of the area. If the accident occurs in a shopping centre, then taking names of nearby shops or the entrance name / number will be crucial. Long shot photographs of the accident location will help in this regard as it is important to be able to establish exactly where the accident occurred. This will be one of the first questions a solicitor will ask.
  • Also, take a note of any other particular features, for example whether there are any wet floor signs and if so where they are located and whether there was a floor mat?
  • What did you slip on? Was there a particular spillage from a drink or was the floor wet as a result of people traipsing in rainwater?
  • Finally, take down the name and contact number of any witnesses as they could provide crucial evidence to assist in bringing about a successful conclusion of the claim.