Slip and fall claims – What do I need to know?

The owner and/or occupier of public or private property owes a duty of care to all those persons who are lawfully (and in some cases unlawfully) present upon their property. It is an obligation to take all reasonable care for the safety and wellbeing of that person. However, the obligation is not absolute. That is, the owner and/or occupier of premises will not be held liable for all and any injury suffered by a person present upon their property unless it can be established that the injury was caused or materially contributed to by the negligence of the owner and/or operator. The owner and/or occupier of the premises is only held liable for those injuries which they have caused.

Many slip and fall claims are prosecuted against grocery stores or shopping centres. The owners and/or occupiers of such premises are burdened with a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to prevent injury or harm to persons present upon their property.

Many cases have been determined by the courts of appeal to define clearly the nature and extent of the duty of care that is owed by shopping centres and/or grocery store operators.

The duty of care is to take all reasonable steps available to the owner and/or occupier to prevent harm. This would include, for example, ensuring that there was a proper system of cleaning devised and instituted to detect and clean up spillages within the shopping centre or grocery store.

Not all slip and falls by reason of a spillage present on the floor within a grocery store or shopping centre will result in the finding of negligence against the owner and/or occupier.

Let us imagine for a moment that a person is present within the shopping centre or grocery store and walking adjacent to a young boy carrying an ice cream. Let us also imagine for a moment that the ice cream fell from the young boy’s hands and that almost immediately thereafter a person slipped on that ice cream suffering injury.

In those circumstances the Court would not hold the owner and/or operator of the shopping centre liable in negligence. The extremely limited time between the ice cream falling onto the ground and the slipping over by the person meant that the owner and/or operator of the premises was denied any opportunity to take remedial action by identifying the presence of the ice cream and the risk imposed and thereafter removing that risk.

If on the other hand the evidence established that the ice cream had been on the ground for a significant period of time such that if there had been a proper cleaning system in place, the spillage would have been detected and removed, then the court would be likely to hold the owner and/or operator of the store liable in negligence for any injury arising from a fall by a shopper.

Not all such claims however are as clear-cut.

Some slip and fall cases can arise by reason of a structural defect within the property or even the inherent slipperiness of the floor itself without there being any contaminant present. In those circumstances it may be necessary to commission an expert’s report from an engineer to determine whether the structural defect and/or the flooring itself complies with all relevant building codes and ordinances. Should such expert evidence establish that there is in fact a breach of a relevant building code and/or ordinance and that same caused or materially contributed to the injury occurring, then this would go a long way to satisfying the Court that negligence on the part of the owner and/or occupier of the premises has been established.

Upon the successful prosecution of a slip and fall claim the injured person would be entitled to recover damages for:

  • Non-economic loss (pain and suffering damages) subject to the injured person establishing that the injury equates to at least 15% of a most extreme case
  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future economic loss
  • Past and future domestic assistance and/or care required (subject to certain statutory limitations)
  • Allowance for legal costs

Brydens Lawyers are experts in the prosecution of all slip and fall claims. If you or someone you know has suffered injury as a result of a fall on public or private property, then contact Brydens Lawyers without delay for a risk free, no obligation assessment as to whether a claim is available. Strict time limits apply so contact Brydens Lawyers without delay on 1800 848 848 or at brydens.com.au. At Brydens Lawyers – #WEDO slip and fall claims.