There are nightclubs up and down the country with each regularly hosting hundreds if not thousands of guests over a busy weekend. In the vast majority of cases there will be little in the way of serious trouble or injuries, but unfortunately where alcohol and drug use might be prevalent, accidents and injuries can happen. However, it is fair to say that many accidents in nightclubs and other similar venues have little to do with alcohol and more to do with negligence on behalf of one or more party.
If you believe you were involved in an accident or incident in a nightclub and injured as a result then you may well be able to claim compensation for injuries received.
Protecting Nightclub Visitors And Employees
While there are potential risks to nightclubbers there are also potential risks to employees in nightclub establishments. It is worth noting that nightclub owners/managers have a legal duty to ensure the well-being of their customers and their employees. These obligations are covered by to two acts of Parliament which are:
Occupiers Liability Act 1957
This act bestows a legal duty on nightclub owners to ensure the safe well-being of visitors to their premises. In legal terms, visitors to the premises should not be exposed to unnecessary or foreseeable risks which might result in injury. There will be occasions where accidents happen and the nightclub owner is able to prove that they took reasonable steps to avoid accidents and injury. In most cases there will be a degree of negligence but there are situations where, having taken reasonable steps, there may not be a case for compensation even if an individual is injured.
Some of the tasks which nightclub owners need to carry out include:
- Initial risk assessment of the premises
- Ongoing risk assessments
- Identification of potential hazards
- Clearing up of hazards such as spilt drinks, broken glass, etc
- Ensure that emergency exits are clear at all times
- Implementation and maintenance of appropriate lighting
- Avoiding overcrowding
These are just some of the day-to-day tasks which face nightclub owners when looking to fulfil their legal obligations towards customers.
Health And Safety At Work Act 1974
Even though most accidents and injuries in nightclubs involve customers, we have seen many occasions where employees such as bouncers and other nightclub staff have been injured. While a nightclub owner has a legal obligation to ensure the safe well-being of customers they also have a similar obligation towards their employees. One of the central arguments used when employees pursue nightclub owners for injury compensation is an inability to deliver on this safe well-being obligation. Employee related issues which nightclub owners need to take into consideration include:
- Appropriate training for all members of staff
- Ongoing training with regards to health and safety
- Supply of the relevant safety equipment
- Clear lines of communication in the event of an incident on the premises
- Regular risk assessments
- Allocating the appropriate level of staffing to ensure employee safety
- A clear and safe working environment
- Renewal of relevant health and safety licence
- Allocating appropriately experienced staff to high-risk roles
It is sometimes easy to forget that nightclub owners have as much of an obligation with regards the safety of their employees as they do customers. The idea that the regular risks faced by many nightclub employees are just “part of the job” is simply wrong. There should be procedures and training in place to avoid such circumstances where possible and if a nightclub owner was found negligent they may well be liable to pay compensation.
Common Nightclub Injury Claims
It is not difficult to see the potential dangers of mixing large groups of buoyant individuals with alcoholic beverages. Some of the more common injuries received in nightclub accidents resulting in compensation claims include:
- Trips, slips and falls
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken bones
- Back injuries
- Injuries as a consequence of a violent attack
- Facial injuries
- Crush injuries
We have seen occasions where fairly inconspicuous looking nightclub accidents have resulted in serious injury and even death. In some cases the level of alcohol consumed by the claimant may have played a role in their injuries but this does not necessarily exempt the nightclub owner from claims of negligence.
Excessively Loud Music
It may sound strange to highlight the matter of excessively loud music in a nightclub/entertainment establishment. However, medical research has shown that long-term exposure to excessively loud music can have a major impact upon a person’s hearing. This in itself could offer a potential claim of negligence against a nightclub even though those employed and visiting the establishment did so under their own volition.
Proving A Nightclubs Negligence
Central to any nightclub compensation claim is the need to prove negligence on behalf of one or more party which led to an accident and injury. You may have a claim for compensation if you are able to prove that the nightclub owner did not fulfil their legal duties.
Where alcohol is involved (and potentially drugs) and buoyant crowds, there may be situations where the claimant was inebriated. In these situations it is not uncommon to see a ruling of partial negligence on behalf of the claimant and one or more third parties. If for example a judge ruled that the inebriated victim was 25% to blame for the accident and subsequent injuries then the additional third parties would only be required to pay 75% of the compensation awarded. Do not be under the impression that just because you had perhaps consumed more alcohol than you should have, this in some way exempts other negligent parties.
If you are involved in an accident in a nightclub which resulted in injury then your first action must be to seek medical attention. Staff within the establishment must have some form of medical training and it is imperative that they are informed as soon as possible about the accident and injuries. Some injuries may be treatable on the Nightclub premises while others may require the emergency services. It is also a legal obligation for all accidents and injuries to be noted in the nightclub “accident book” which should also be available to the victim when gathering evidence.
There will be instances where the claimant is severely injured and unable to gather additional evidence. Where possible it would be extremely useful to:
- Take photographs of the scene of the accident
- Take photographs of the injuries
- Seek witness statements from other clubbers or staff and their contact details
- Request security camera footage
Where medical attention is given this ensures that the claimant’s records will be updated to reflect the circumstances of the accident and injuries. These records can be extremely useful when pursuing compensation through a court of law.
We have also seen many occasions where those involved in an accident feel “fine” only for issues such as concussion and other injuries to emerge hours or even days later. Intoxication can numb the nervous system and this together with increased adrenaline can sometimes mask potentially serious medical injuries. Therefore, even if you feel “fine” it is still important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The creation of a timeline of events might also be useful when pursuing compensation although if the claimant was heavily intoxicated this may be difficult.
Legal Advice On Nightclub Injury Claims
Many personal injury solicitors will have significant experience in the area of nightclub injury claims potentially involving violence, negligence and intoxication. They will be able to review your evidence although on occasion they may request additional medical examinations to pinpoint any injuries and their severity. After reviewing any evidence you have been able to provide most solicitors (where they believe there is a strong case to answer) will suggest signing a No Win No Fee agreement. This type of arrangement will see the solicitor covering their own legal expenses in exchange for a “success fee” on a successful outcome.
Lodging A Nightclub Injury Claim
Once an agreement has been reached with a solicitor they will lodge your nightclub injury claim, together with supporting evidence and timeline, with the courts. At this point the defendant will also receive a copy of the evidence. Where negligence has been accepted the defendant will likely request an out-of-court settlement which will mitigate their legal expenses while also ensuring that the claimant receives compensation sooner rather than later.
Where negligence might be disputed by one or more of any third parties involved in the nightclub incident the case would be referred to the courts. A judge would make a ruling after reviewing all evidence to hand and announce damages payable where negligence has been proven.
Compensation That Could Be Claimed For
Before we look at the different types of compensation available when pursuing a nightclub injury claim, it is worth being aware of the potential for an interim compensation payment.
In cases where negligence has been proven and accepted, but no compensation award has yet been agreed, a personal injury solicitor may be able to secure an interim compensation payment. This not only ensures that the claimant is able to cover medical and other expenses directly related to the accident but can also ensure funding for day-to-day living expenses. This payment would be deducted from the final compensation award. It is worth noting that an interim compensation payment can also help to avert the need for a claimant to accept a below par compensation offer due to their financial situation.
There are two specific types of compensation available when pursuing negligent parties for injuries received in a nightclub incident or accident. These are better known as general damages and special damages. In basic terms, general damages relate to financial compensation for injuries received and take in issues such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental trauma
- Life changing injuries
The courts, legal firms and insurance companies often refer to guidance published by the Judicial College which collates historic compensation payments by injury type and severity. While this guidance has no legal standing it is well respected and used as a basis for calculating future awards. There is also a degree of discretion which ensures that the individual circumstances of individual claims are reflected in the final award.
The situation regarding special damages is more straightforward, best described as financial recompense for costs incurred and loss of income. Special damages take in an array of issues such as:
- Loss of earnings
- Future loss of earnings
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Adaptions to the home
- Additional transport expenses
There is no discretion/variation when it comes to special damages as this is simply repayment of costs incurred and lost income/earnings. The cumulative total of general damages and special damages can be extremely high where the victim has received a long-term debilitating injury.