Our firm has particular expertise in claims for accidents in shops. We have successfully represented hundreds of clients in these specialist claims. You can read some of our recent case studies such as suing for a fall in a shop and compensation for tripping on a shop step.
Slips, trips and falls are the most common type of accidents that happen in shops and supermarkets. Such accidents usually take place when the normal systems of inspection and cleaning fail to operate properly, usually due to staff shortages or poor store management. Accidents are most likely to happen at peak times when premises are crowded, and shops need to adjust their system of inspection and cleaning accordingly. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report found that one store achieved a two thirds reduction in slipping accidents simply by changing the lunch break of their cleaning staff to a non-peak time.
Visitors to shops are broadly protected under the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957, which requires that owners take all 'reasonable' measures to ensure their premises are 'reasonably safe' for their 'lawful visitors'. This will involve formulating and enforcing an adequate system of inspection and cleaning. The basic principle for employees is that spills and similar hazards should be eliminated as soon as they become evident. Where this is not possible, warning signs should be immediately erected and form an adequate barricade to protect visitors. Hourly inspections should take place to minimise the risk of slip and trip accidents.
Inadequate maintenance and poor layout can also cause accidents and injuries in shops. Examples include lifts, escalators or automatic doors that malfunction and shopping trolleys or baskets that are damaged. Frayed carpeting or trailing electrical cables may pose a tripping hazard, as may product packaging that has been discarded by staff in public spaces. Outdoor areas at stores may have uneven surfaces or be inadequately lit, while ice and snow in winter can make such areas slippery and dangerous. Shop shelves and displays may also be poorly stacked or arranged, causing products and signs to fall and injure customers.
Employees in the retail sector face a variety of hazards in the course of their work beyond those posed to regular shop visitors. Workers on meat, fish, bakery and cheese counters use sharp implements and cutting devices when serving customers. Shelf stackers are at risk of manual handling injuries, particularly strains and sprains when they are required to lift and carry excessive loads. Finally any employee involved in the cooking or handling of hot food may be vulnerable to scalding, burns or electric shocks from spills or contact with hot surfaces and electrical appliances.
When a visitor is injured in a shop through no fault of their own, they may be nervous about the idea of bringing a claim against a large corporation and unsure about their chances of success. The main legal point to bear in mind is that retailers owe their customers duty of care, and must take all reasonable measures to maintain safety standards and minimise the risk of accidents occurring. If the negligence of either management or staff is to blame for a customer getting injured, then the shop in question will have breached this duty of care, and the owners or parent company will be liable to pay compensation.
Bartletts Solicitors recently represented a client who was injured in a shop after a heavy boxed item fell from a shelf and struck him on the head. Mr D was shopping for children’s toys with his wife, and was reaching for a product on a high shelf when a stack of boxed goods became unbalanced and collapsed, with one box hitting him directly on the head and knocking him to the floor. Mr D sustained a deep cut to the head, which later required stitches, and felt dizzy and unsteady on his feet in the aftermath. While receiving treatment at the scene, his wife had the presence of mind to take down the details of several witnesses to the accident, which later proved important in showing that the boxes had been stacked haphazardly and were likely to topple over at any time. Mr D was treated at a local walk-in centre, and was subsequently forced to take a week off work while his wounds healed. He was left with a prominent long-term scar on his head, but otherwise made a full recovery.
Mr D later contacted our firm having read about our experience in shop injury claims, and we agreed to represent him on a no win no fee basis in a compensation claim against the retailer in question. In correspondence with the retailer’s insurers, we argued that the boxes had been stacked in an unstable and precarious manner, making it reasonably foreseeable that they would collapse and injure anyone standing below, even under the slightest force. Retailers owe their lawful visitors a duty of care under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 and must ensure they are kept reasonably safe while visiting a retail premises. In this instance, management and staff at the shop had failed to protect Mr D from the risk of injury by stacking the shelves in a dangerous way, and this amounted to negligence. We were able to obtain witness statements which corroborated Mr and Mrs D’s version of events, and which ultimately helped us to secure an admission of liability from the retailer’s insurers. Within a few months of starting his claim, Mr D received a cheque for £3,750 in compensation.