Slips, Trips & Falls Claims
The term slip, trip, and fall refers to injuries that are sustained due to falling on a spill such as juice/food, or tripping whilst on the premises of a business. This is known as Occupiers Liability.
If you have had a slip, trip, or fall that caused injury you may be able to make a claim under the public liability insurance of the occupier of the premises.
To make a claim you will need to establish that:
- You sustained an injury on the premises.
- Your injury was sustained because the occupier of the premises failed to take reasonable care for your safety while on the premises.
These claims are now in a large part modified by the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW).
The Act sets out three conditions that must exist before negligence can arise.
A person is not negligent in failing to take precautions against a risk of injury unless:
- It was a risk of which the person knew or ought to have known.
- The risk was not insignificant.
- A reasonable person in the circumstances would have taken those precautions.
When considering these matters the court must take into account the following:
- The probability of the harm occurring if care were not taken.
- The likely seriousness of the harm.
- The burden of taking precautions to avoid the risk of harm
- The social utility of the activity that creates the risk of harm.
Each case is determined on its own facts and circumstances applying the principles as we have outlined above.
Claims against Supermarkets
Many of the slip, trip, and fall claims are made against supermarkets. The law of occupier’s liability in NSW as it relates to slip and fall claims in supermarkets was reviewed by the High Court of Australia in Strong v Woolworths Limited (2012) HCA 5.
The High Court found that a supermarket such as Woolworths as the occupier of the premises is required to carry out regular inspection and removal of slipping hazards at intervals no greater than 20 minutes.
The Plaintiff must demonstrate how long the substance was on the floor prior to the fall. This time period can be inferred by the circumstances surrounding the claim.
In this case, the Plaintiff slipped on a hot chip at around 12.30pm. The Plaintiff could not prove how long the chip was on the floor before her fall. The supermarket could only say that they last inspected the floor at 8.00am that morning. The court inferred that on the balance of probabilities the chip had been on the floor for more than the reasonable 20 minutes and the plaintiff was successful in her claim.
It is crucial in any claim to be able to demonstrate how long the cause of the slip was on the floor. If the supermarket carries out regular inspection and removal of any hazards and they can demonstrate that they did so within a 20 minute period then in most cases, the Plaintiff will not be successful.
Other examples of slips, trips and falls in supermarkets are where there is a large puddle of water leaking from, say a refrigeration system. The plaintiff will not be able to call direct evidence as to how long the water had been on the floor however can prove this in two ways.
The first would be to obtain the supermarkets records of inspection and cleaning. If the supermarket is unable to provide evidence that they at least inspected the floor every 20 minutes, then it can be inferred that the water was on the floor for longer than 20 minutes. The second is the size of the pool of water which may also indicate that the water had been on the floor for more than 20 minutes.
It is crucial in a supermarket slip and fall claim to obtain evidence of the defendant’s system of inspection and cleaning.
The court applied a period of 20 minutes to a supermarket such as Woolworths however in a high traffic area such as a food court, a reasonable system of inspection and cleaning may be more like 10 minutes. Likewise, if the area where the fall occurred is less busy, a longer period will apply.
Each case depends on its own circumstances, if you would like to discuss a potential slip and fall claim, please do not hesitate to contact our lawyers as follows;