When you consider that the UK retail industry employs around 3 million people, let alone the number of customers visiting each day, it is not difficult to see the potential for injuries and therefore supermarket accident compensation claims being started.
Supermarkets have a legal duty of care towards their employees as well as their customers and when you bear in mind how busy supermarkets are on a regular basis, keeping up with every health and safety rule is not always easy. In reality it is impossible to clear every supermarket spillage as soon as it happens, clear broken glass when jars are dropped and clear cluttered supermarket aisles within an instant. Therefore, as long as a supermarket is able to demonstrate that it acted reasonably in relation to its legal duty of care to employees and customers, not every accident and injury will lead to a supermarket accident claim.
Safety Of Supermarket Employees And Customers
As we touched on above, supermarkets have a duty of care towards their employees and customers which comes under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. This confirms the legal obligation for owner/occupiers of premises, in this instance a supermarket, to ensure that reasonable care has been taken to maintain a safe environment. The Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974 clarifies a more in-depth obligation that employers have towards their employees.
Common Hazards In Supermarkets
It is difficult to cover all of the potential hazards and dangers in supermarkets as they vary in size and footfall. However, over the years trends have begun to emerge which highlight the more common preventable hazards in supermarkets that can lead to accident compensation claims. These include:
- Wet floors – caused by anything from the weather to leaking freezers and the residue of cleaning products.
- Spillage of food and liquid. Spillages of any nature can be a major hazard in supermarkets and have caused serious accidents in the past.
- Items falling from shelves – this can be down to poor stacking, substandard shelving or incorrect placement of goods.
- Cluttered floor space – this takes in everything from stray trolleys to baskets, boxes to trays, roll cages to unpacked items and more.
While the above dangers can impact employees and supermarket customers, there is an array of additional dangers for supermarket employees. These include:
- Poorly stacked goods in the warehouse – often leading to items falling and injuring individuals.
- Substandard or defective equipment – taking in everything from roll cages to forklift trucks, from shopping trolleys to dangerous shelving.
- Lifting of heavy objects – without the right support and training, simple lifting processes can lead to compensation claims for manual handling injuries.
- Insufficient training – lack of training and updates for specific sections.
- Musculoskeletal injuries for checkout staff – badly designed chairs and lack of breaks can lead to painful musculoskeletal injuries such as repetitive strain injury.
In the case of wet floors and spillages in supermarkets, these dangers should be cleared as soon as possible and in the meantime warning signs erected. This ensures that both supermarket customers and supermarket employees are aware of potential dangers and the fact that they will be cleared very soon. Where a supermarket can demonstrate that action was taken as quickly as possible to avoid injury, such as trips, slips and falls while shopping in a supermarket, this may negate any potential compensation pay-outs. This also puts into perspective the often large number of cleaning staff seen in modern day supermarkets which may seem over the top but they are there to do a very important job.
Proving Negligence In A Supermarket Accident Compensation Claim
If you have been the victim of an accident in a supermarket and you believe you have a valid supermarket accident claim for compensation, the first thing you need to do is prove negligence. As well as proving that reasonable action was taken, supermarkets can use the “contributory negligence” defence which effectively means that the claimant was also partially to blame. This not only reduces the level of liability but will also reduce any potential compensation payments awarded by the courts. However, it is worth noting that even if for example an individual was under the influence of alcohol prior to an accident in a supermarket, this does not necessarily mean they were partly or even fully to blame.
In many cases negligence is fairly straightforward due to spillages, defective equipment and in the case of members of staff, poorly maintained machinery and substandard training. However, there will be instances where the supermarkets deny negligence and the matter will go before the courts.
What To Do When Considering A Supermarket Accident Claim
Whether you are an employee of a supermarket or a customer, the first thing to do in the event of an injury is to seek medical attention and treatment where applicable. This not only ensures that all injuries are treated as soon as possible but your injuries and the manner in which they occurred will also be noted on your medical records. This will prove extremely useful further down the line if you do decide to pursue supermarket accident compensation. So, what should you do after medical treatment has been received?
It is imperative that you put together a detailed timetable of the accident including what supermarket it happened in such as Tesco, Sainsburys, ASDA, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose, etc. Also note down when the accident happened and why it happened. In some cases it may be possible to take a photograph of the scene as well as photographs of injuries incurred. There is also a strong likelihood that witnesses will step forward who saw the accident and may have telling evidence. All witness details should be gathered at the scene, statement sought in due course and, where required, you may need to call a witness to give evidence. All retail outlets are also obliged to keep an accident book by law and if you experience an incident on their premises, your supermarket accident should be recorded. The Health and Safety Executive will also need to be informed by the employer/premises owner in the case of serious injuries.
When you have all of your evidence together, an experienced personal injury solicitor will be able to inform you of the strength of any potential supermarket accident compensation claim. Where they believe you have a strong claim they may offer a No Win No Fee claim which means that the claimant will only hand over part of any compensation settlement in lieu of payment.
How Much Compensation For A Supermarket Accident?
Any potential compensation payment for a supermarket accident will take into account all elements of the accident, the severity of injury and the level of negligence. The Judicial College regularly releases advisory compensation payments relating to specific injuries. As no two injuries are the same, both from a physical and mental point of view, there is no one size fits all compensation award. For example, how much compensation for a fall in supermarket you might receive if you have broken your arm will differ from somebody who has fallen in the supermarket and sprained their wrist. However, the courts and insurance companies will refer to Judicial College guidance when looking to arrive at any supermarket compensation award.
In essence there are two different types of compensation which are general damages and special damages. General damages take in the likes of:
- Pain and suffering as a consequence of the accident.
- Mental trauma.
- Personality/life changes.
There is scope for individual input from the courts in relation to general damages because while there are guidelines, these are not set in stone. The situation with special damages is slightly different because this is redress for financial expense incurred and funding for future expenses directly related to injuries received in the supermarket accident. These include elements such as:
- Loss of earnings.
- Future loss of earnings.
- Medical expenses.
- Future medical expenses.
- Adaptions required to the individual’s home.
- Any other future expenses incurred as a direct result of the accident.
Claiming Compensation As A Supermarket Employee
Even though potential negligence claims and resulting compensation on behalf of supermarket customers tend to be relatively straightforward, the situation can be a little different for supermarket employees. It is worth noting that while employers have a duty of care to maintain the workplace, provide the correct equipment and advice, they also need to carry out regular risk assessments and administer training updates. Failure to maintain these updates could lead to prosecution under the statutory regulations and where injuries are incurred as a consequence of negligence in a supermarket, significant compensation payments may be forthcoming.
Lodging A Supermarket Accident Compensation Claim
It is worth remembering that while many supermarket customers will experience accidents and potential injuries, it is just as dangerous if not more so for employees. Aside from the general challenges of a busy shop floor we know that supermarket warehouses are often dangerous environments.
Whether you are a customer or employee, if you think you have a supermarket accident compensation claim and want to make a claim or just want further advice we would strongly suggest contacting a solicitor right away.