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Anyone who has been injured while going about their day may be eligible to make a claim for injury compensation - if the accident was the fault of another party.

If you have been injured at work, or on the road, the party responsible for your accident is usually obvious; a negligent employer, or the driver who caused the crash.

In the case of an accident in a public place, however, identifying the party responsible is often more complicated.

To claim compensation for an accident in a public place, it must be shown that the owner or occupier of the location where you were injured owed you a duty of care, and failed to ensure your safety.

Common claims for accidents in a public place

The most common category of injuries are falls due to faulty pavements or other obstacles, but claims are not limited to slips and trips. Other common public liability and occupiers' liability claims include:

  • Being struck by items falling from shelves in shops and supermarkets
  • Accidents in leisure centres and sports clubs
  • Trips over cleaning or maintenance equipment
  • Items falling from scaffolding
  • Accidents caused by faulty equipment in play parks
  • Accidents due to poor street lighting
  • Icy walkways that have not been gritted or salted
  • Burns and scalds in restaurants
  • Injuries from faulty doors or furniture

Who is responsible for an accident in a public place?

The law protects members of the public from being injured in a public place and requires landowners and occupiers to have proper regard for the safety of their visitors. Where an accident occurs, the claim would be brought against the person responsible for maintaining the property where the injury occurred.

In the case of a trip over a pothole or protruding paving stones while walking on a road or pavement, the local authority is likely to be liable. The local authority usually has a legal duty to maintain and repair the city streets. If the council have been negligent in their duty of repair, then they may be liable to pay compensation for any resulting injury.

Other possible Defendants include the owners and tenants of shops, restaurants, cafes, leisure centres, museums, supermarkets and play parks. An experienced solicitor can help to determine who has the legal responsibility for maintaining the area in question, and ensure that a claim is brought against the correct party.

How do you prove negligence in an "accident in a public place" claim?

As with all types of personal injury claim, it is up to the injured person and their solicitor to show that the Defendant was negligent in some way, and that the injury occurred as a result of the negligence. 

It is helpful to obtain photographs showing the state of repair of the pavement or the hazard that caused the injury, for example, photographs documenting a spillage or incorrectly stacked shelving in a shop or restaurant.

A solicitor can also help to gather additional evidence such as witness statements and information recorded in the company's accident book, for example, in order to show that the property owner was negligent in their duty.

Not all accidents will result in a compensation claim. If the accident was the result of minor wear and tear to a public pavement, for example, then the local authority may not always be liable. As a rule of thumb, potholes more than an inch in depth and paving stones protruding higher than one inch from the floor level will usually result in a compensation claim since defects of this significance indicate that the local authority breached their duty of care.

It may also be possible to make a claim if you are partly responsible for the accident, however this will depend heavily on the facts of your case.

How do you make a compensation claim for an accident in a public place?

The first step is to contact an experienced solicitor. Your solicitor will work with you to establish the facts of the accident, and who is liable. Your solicitor will also talk you through the claims process so you know what to expect during the conduct of your case.

Local authorities have their own procedures for dealing with public accident compensation claims. These are usually effective and can reduce the time and cost associated with litigation. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the local authority's internal investigation, or are unsatisfied with the compensation that is offered, then it is still possible to make a claim for compensation through the Courts.

Most landowners and occupiers carry insurance against the risk of someone being injured on their premises. Therefore, the majority of claims are negotiated, and paid out, by the Defendant's insurer. Most people are pleased to hear that the vast majority of claims are settled by the insurance company out of Court.  

What is the time limit for making an accident in a public place claim?

Claims must be brought within three years of the date of the accident in most cases, although different rules apply to children and may also apply to those who are deemed unable to manage their own legal affairs. A personal injury solicitor can advise you about the time limit and whether you have a valid claim.

How much compensation will I receive?

The amount of compensation varies from person to person and depends on the seriousness of the injury and the long-term impact it has on the injured person's ability to work and enjoy hobbies.

Solicitors, insurance companies and the Courts refer to guidance, known as the Judicial College Guidelines, when estimating the value of a claim.

The aim of compensation is to put the injured person back into the position they were in before the accident. Therefore, you can also expect to recover the financial losses arising from the accident such as travel expenses and medical bills.

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