Accidents in Shops

by Dean Talbot

Many accident claims may involve incidents which occur in shops, supermarkets or department stores. These could vary from a simple slip on spilt liquid or fruit, to shelving collapsing, to items being left in walkways and constituting trip hazards. All of these are common situations and all are situations which have appeared in real life accident claims with which this firm has dealt and which have been successful.

The most common accident claim in a shop is a simple slip, usually on liquid or dropped fruit. This is governed by the Occupiers Liability Act (1957) which requires that an occupier (a shop, store or supermarket) must take reasonable care for customers who are lawfully on their premises. In practical terms this means that they have to ensure that they have a reasonable system of inspection and cleaning, which for a large supermarket means that they need to check the floor of the supermarket at least every 15 minutes and confirm by completion of documentation that they have done so. Any spillages or hazards must be dealt with as they are found. Most supermarkets these days operate a "clean as you go" policy, where staff are expected to deal with any hazards as they are found. As staff are constantly moving about large stores, this can be an effective way of meeting a supermarketís obligations. That said, occasionally spillages are missed and people injured as a result. Locations in supermarkets where spillages are typically found, are fresh produce (fruit and vegetables), especially soft fruits, and cut flower stands. Most supermarkets now have mats in front of their soft fruits and cut flower stands. Clearly it is likely that when removing cut flowers from their buckets, water will inevitably drip onto the floor and if there are no mats to soak the water up, this will result in a slip hazard. This is a classic scenario in which a supermarket would be responsible for a slipping accident.

Other more grey areas are cases in which a slip occurs on a substance somewhere in the store, although no evidence is available to show how long the substance has been there. If a customer can provide witness evidence that the substance has been there for between 20 minutes and 30 minutes, this is usually enough to prove that the supermarket has breached their duty. This is easier to do if, for example, the slip hazard is directly in front of a till or customer services desk, where staff could not fail to notice it.

Tripping hazards or accidents involving other hazards in the store (such as collapsing shelves, collisions with staff pushing trolleys, etc) have to be judged on their merits. Not all stores are of course supermarkets, but the same basic principles apply whatever the size of the store.

Not all accident claims in stores involve customers. Employees are injured too and when an employee is injured, different sets of regulations and laws come into play. In some respects such regulation can make it easier to prove that the store was responsible, although they generally govern the duty of the employer to the worker, rather than the general duty to the public.

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