OCCUPIERS’ LIABILITY CLAIMS & PEOPLE LAWFULLY ON THE PREMISES
Accidents commonly occur on property or land owned by somebody else.
We call these “occupiers’ liability claims” (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/3).
They include all sorts of accidents in all types of places, such as slipping in a supermarket or tripping in a park, an accident in a children’s play area, a shop, or a garage.
In such cases, the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 will be relevant.
Owners/occupiers of premises have a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of people who are on the premises.
If there is a dispute about whether somebody is an occupier or not, we look to who controls the premises.
The duty is to take such care as in all the circumstances is reasonable to ensure that any visitor to the premises will be safe for the purpose for which they are invited or permitted to be there.
Those responsible for premises need to carry out risk assessments. They need to take steps to ensure that if there are any risks, they are reduced or eliminated. For example, a supermarket should have a policy of inspecting the store and dealing with spillages or trip hazards. This is why you often hear on the tannoy an announcement for the instore cleaner to make their way to an aisle to clean up a spill. If the supermarket did not take steps to clean a hazard immediately and an accident happened, they would be responsible for any injury caused. Moreover, the occupier should have a system of regular inspections.
If there is a play area in a park, the equipment must be regularly inspected and repaired. Warning signs should be put up where necessary.
If the entrance to a shop can get wet when it rains, a reasonable system would include a suitable anti-slip mat, a wet floor sign and a regular system of inspection and cleaning.
Certain things are looked at when deciding whether there may have been negligence :
- The nature of the danger;
- The seriousness of the risk of injury;
- The cost of steps to avoid the danger;
- Any warning of the danger.
A shop or store invites people into the premises for the purpose of purchasing goods. Lots of people will come and go. If it is obvious that rainwater builds up, then the duty to keep an eye on that is clear. Steps to avoid such a danger are not costly. A mat, a warning sign, regular inspections. Failure to do this would point to negligence.
CCTV can prove useful as well. Not only of any accident itself but also, for the day in question as a whole. If the occupier suggests that it has a reasonable system in place then the CCTV will shed some light on that. Did they inspect the floor before the accident? How often? Was there a wet floor sign up?
Other types of accidents might involve trip/slip hazards. For example, a set of steps which do not have anti-slip edging, or an oil spillage on the floor in a garage, or a broken step, or even ice on a shop/store car park where no gritting has taken place. The same principles will apply. Risks must be assessed and action taken to prevent accidents. If the occupier is unable to provide evidence of a reasonable system of inspection, maintenance and repair, then negligence may be found.
We understand that such accidents can have a serious impact upon you. Not only in relation to an injury but also, they can cause you to take time off work and suffer lost earnings.