A significant number of people suffer injuries in public places such as shops, restaurants, schools and parks. Many of these accidents are as a result of negligence or a breach of duty of care on the part of those who own and or control the premises and could easily be avoided.
Those who have suffered injury may be able to bring a compensation claim under public liability law. The nature and extent of an individual’s injuries will dictate the route that their claim will follow. This blog deals with claims that are valued at above £25,000 and not suitable for the MOJ portal for lower value claims.
Emmott Snell Solicitors recently obtained a five-figure settlement for Miss X who suffered a severe and debilitating knee injury as a result of tripping on a pothole in a poorly maintained car park she was permitted to use by virtue of her employment. On the day of her accident Miss X was walking in the car park when she tripped on the pothole causing her to fall forwards twisting her knee as she did so. A fellow car park user who saw Miss X on the ground came to her assistance and helped her to her feet. Although in pain Miss X continued to her place of work. Whilst at work Miss X’s pain worsened and she attended the local hospital. As a result of her injuries Miss X required surgery but sadly contracted a serious post-operative infection which required her to be hospitalised for a total of nine and a half weeks and undergo six surgeries/procedures including a skin graft. Following her discharge from hospital Miss X required rehabilitation and significant care and assistance from her family whilst she recovered at home.
Emmott Snell Solicitors visited Miss X (pre-COVID-19 times) at her home (on a couple of occasions as she was unable to easily visit our offices) to take detailed instructions from her as to how the accident had happened and how her injuries impacted on her day-to-day life. This enabled us to prepare a detailed letter of claim which was sent to the defendant’s insurer. The defendant via its insurers strongly argued that they were not to blame for Miss X’s accident asserting that she had fallen in an area of the car park where there were no potholes.
Informal and formal site visits (including one by Emmott Snell Solicitors who attended the site to assess the defect and to take photographs) took place to determine the precise location of the accident. Witness evidence was obtained which fully supported Miss X’s version of events. Medical evidence was obtained from experts in two different fields of medicine. A barrister was instructed who supported Miss X in her claim. In order to protect her position Miss X’s claim was registered at court. The court documents including medical evidence and a detailed schedule of Miss X’s financial losses were served on the defendant’s legal representatives who made an offer of settlement. Following some negotiation, the defendant was persuaded to increase on their initial offer and the case was settled without the need for a court hearing.
Who is responsible and the law?
Owners/controllers of public premises have a duty to do all that they reasonably can to make sure that their premises are safe to all those who use them. In order to assist owners/controllers to do so they should carry out risk assessments to identify and take steps to reduce those risks to an acceptable level. This is usually achieved by systems of inspection and maintenance. For instance, in our client’s case the owners/controllers of the carpark should have put in place a system of inspection and maintenance so that the pothole would have been identified and remedied so that it would not have caused our client’s accident.
Injuries caused by accidents in public places
These injuries can be wide ranging in their severity and include psychological as well as physical injuries. Psychological injuries are not so easy to see but should not be overlooked. Psychological injuries are similar to physical injuries in that the symptoms vary in their severity and in the majority of cases require treatment.
What should I do if I am involved in an accident in a public place?
- Seek medical attention even if you consider your injuries to be minor. Your health and wellbeing should be your first priority.
- Record your accident in the accident book (all businesses should have an accident book on site). If you are not able to do this ask someone to do it for you or check it has been done when you are able to do so.
- If there are any witnesses to your accident obtain their contact details.
- Take photographs and measurements of any defects if you are able to do so.
- Write down everything you can about the accident and keep any related documents
- Keep a record of all your expenses and losses.
Time limit in bringing a personal injury claim
Claiming compensation for injuries caused by these claims is much like any other personal injury claim. The basic rule in English law is that an adult who is harmed or injured must bring their claim within three years from the date of their injury. If a child is injured, then the time limit is their 21st birthday. In law children must be represented in their claims by a suitable and competent adult known as a “litigation friend”.
The compensation claim process
Your lawyer will take your account of the circumstances surrounding your injury and assess any potential claim you may have. If your lawyer believes that you have a claim against the owner/controller of the premises, then he or she will start the evidence gathering process. This may include taking witness statements from any witnesses and obtaining any relevant records and attending site visits. Your lawyer will then prepare a letter of claim to send to the owner/controller of the public place who then becomes the defendant.
The defendant has a period of time to investigate the claim and to return with their response as to whether they accept or deny fault for your injury. During the course of your claim, you will be asked to meet with an independent medical expert (or experts if necessary) who will prepare a detailed report dealing with your diagnosis and prognosis. The report is an important document as it will allow your lawyer to assess the amount of compensation you should recover. It is also possible to claim for any out of pocket, financial losses such as lost earnings, damaged clothing and treatment costs.
Your lawyer will send your medical report and details of your financial losses to the defendant/their insurer and/or legal representative and invite an offer of settlement. Negotiation will then take place and it is hoped that your claim may be settled at this stage. The amount of compensation will depend on the severity of your injury and other factors such as the time taken you to recover and the effects the injury has had on your day-to-day life. If it is not possible to reach agreement as to the amount of compensation you should receive, or the opponent continues to deny that they are to blame for your injury then it may be necessary to register your claim at court.
How can I protect my benefits if I receive compensation?
A claimant’s entitlement to benefits can be protected by the setting up of a PI Trust to hold their compensation monies separate from their own finances. If a claimant decides not to set up a PI Trust, then the Department of Work and Pensions will consider the compensation monies to be capital and the claimant may lose their entitlements to benefits. Ultimately, this may mean that the compensation monies will not be spent as intended, i.e., for future treatment or care.
If you have suffered personal injury in a public place or any other setting and would like further information as to whether you may have a possible claim for compensation please contact Emmott Snell Solicitors on 01234 360140 and/or download our personal injury eBook. Alternatively, please contact our offices for an initial and informal chat. We are open and available to speak to anyone who may need our assistance.
Click here to read our Personal injury claims case studies.
Stay safe and well.