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Accidents in Public Places

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Accidents which occur on property or land owned by somebody else are called Occupiers Liability accidents. This can include accidents which occur in buildings, on ‘premises’ or on land which is not controlled by you or your employer. They are also known as public place accidents.

Premises can include land and buildings, as well as any fixed or moveable structure and can cover anything from shops, offices, public buildings, aircraft and houses.

The Law

There is a duty of care which is owed to lawful visitors under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 to take reasonable care to ensure that visitors will be reasonably safe when using the premises. The Occupiers Liability Act 1984 covers people other than visitors, such as trespassers.

The duty owed by occupiers is “to take care as is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case to see that they are not injured on the premises by the danger concerned”.

Example: Trips and Slips

Unfortunately, there are often hazards on the floor which are not expected to be there which can cause us to trip or slip and suffer a personal injury.

Trips usually occur when the flooring is defective, such as a raised kerb, pothole or uneven flooring. Trips can also be caused by items negligently being left on the floor by another person or in a shop where an employee may have left something on the floor which has caused your accident.

Slips usually occur due to water or liquids on the floor, which is normally caused by inadequate cleaning. In some cases, the floor has been cleaned, but no wet floor signs are present to warn of the danger.

How do I prove who was responsible?

To make a successful claim, your Solicitor must establish that the owner of the property was legally responsible for the accident. They must also establish that your injuries resulted from the accident.

If you and the owner of the public place are both at fault, it may still be possible to receive compensation.

It may be that the building in which your accident occurred is owned by somebody different and managed by another company. It would therefore be important to establish which company should be held responsible or if it is more than one. It is usually a different company who occupies the premises and who has control over the day-to-day running of it.

Public Liability Claims


Common accidents in public places

Whilst this would cover a variety of premises, it could be that your injury, or that of your child, may be as a result of:

Slip Sign


Public highway accidents

Accidents arising from trips, slips and falls on roads or streets are very common. Every year, thousands of people make a trip or slip claim after being injured in a public place. Most claims are due to broken or uneven pavements, kerbs or potholes on the roads and pathways.

You must be able to prove that the person responsible for maintaining the land/area was negligent in their duty. For example, you may have to demonstrate that an organisation failed to maintain a public pavement and allowed it to fall into such a state of disrepair that it caused an avoidable accident leading to you sustaining injuries.

You would have to prove that the defect which caused your accident was a minimum of 1 inch in depth at the time of your accident by providing photographs of measurements of the defect. This is important as the area may be repaired shortly after your accident.

What evidence will I need?

To prove the premises/land you were visiting was unsafe, you will need evidence and this can be obtained in numerous ways:

  • Photographic evidence will show what caused the accident with measurements to show scale. It is also useful to show the injuries sustained, especially with scarring.
  • Witness statements are good to prove the risks were avoidable and that the accident details are corroborated. If for example, an employee has confirmed the area has been defective for some time, this will assist your case.
  • You must be able to provide details of exactly where, why and how the accident happened and be clear on what the danger was and how it was preventable.
  • Medical attention or log of the Accident Report to prove the cause of your fall was reported to the Occupier. You should ensure that you keep copies of any letters received in relation to your accident, such as letters from insurance companies, and send these to your solicitor promptly.

Who does it affect?

An Occupier Liability claim can cover anybody visiting the premises.

The extent of the duty on the Occupier is to take such care as is reasonable to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purpose for which they are invited by the occupier to be there. This applies to both children and adults.

However, if you are a skilled visitor, for example, visiting a construction site and are experienced – whilst the Occupier has a duty, you may be expected to take some care for your own safety.

There are three types of lawful visitor:

  • Those with express permission, such as a person you invite into your house.
  • Those with implied permission, such as a person entering a shop.
  • Those with a right to enter, such as a police officer.

Personal Injury Claim

What can I claim?

Each case is assessed individually and is dependent on supportive medical evidence. You can claim for:

Personal Injury

These can be known as General Damages. This is a compensation award that is made for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity of life that are evidentially linked to the accident you had. The pain and suffering element of the award would compensate you for all past, present and future physical and psychiatric symptoms.

Loss of amenity means the inability to complete activities, either temporarily or permanently, after an accident, which could be undertaken before. This is an award designed to compensate you for the actual injuries suffered, and the effect those have had on your quality of life.


These can be known as Special Damages. This is a head of loss designed to compensate you for any financial losses or out-of-pocket expenses you may have incurred as a result of the accident. This would include but is not limited to:

  • Loss of earnings.
  • Medication or prescription charges.
  • Travel to appointments.
  • Any cost of care for the extra care you have needed from family or care providers.

If you are not able to do things such as gardening, walking the dog and have to pay somebody for these services as a direct consequence of your accident and subsequent injuries, these can also be claimed for.

This can also include any future loss claim and if you are unable to return to the same job as a result of the accident, you can claim for a lump sum based on your wages known as Smith v Manchester award. This is where it can be proved that as a result of your injuries, there is a risk you would find it more difficult to obtain similar employment.

However, an injured person has a duty to take reasonable steps to minimise their losses/expenses. This is called mitigation of losses, and a Court will assess whether or not the loss was reasonably incurred, before making an award.



What is my claim worth?

Lord Donaldson has said – “Suffering is very individual, no damages can compensate in any real sense.”

As such, this is very much dependent on the severity of your injuries and the effects it has had on your life. If the symptoms are ongoing and are supported by the medical evidence, this would increase the value of your claim.

The best starting point for assessing the level of your compensation is by reference to the Judicial College Guidelines, which set out financial brackets for common types of injury.

The Guidelines are broken down into the affected body parts, the type of injury, and the severity of the injury. They were introduced as it was recognised that whilst no two cases are ever precisely the same, justice was required to develop consistency between awards.

Precedent case law, which refers to previous cases that have appeared before the Courts, is also relied on to support the valuation. Consideration must also be given to whether you have had a pre-existing disability or whether the injury accelerated a pre-existing condition. Even where the older injury may not be symptomatic at the time of the accident, it is something that will have to be considered and would affect the value of your claim.

What should I do after I have been injured?

To bring a successful claim, you will need to establish that it was foreseeable that a visitor would come onto the property and that the occupier allowed a hazard there that was foreseeably dangerous to them. When you make a claim it is helpful if you have taken the following steps:

  • Report the accident to the staff or owner and make a note in the accident book if possible.
  • Take photographs of where your accident happened, any defective equipment and details of witnesses willing to provide evidence.
  • Make a note of details of any signage
  • Get confirmation as to whether the incident was reported and if so, to whom
  • Try to identify how the defendants could have taken reasonable steps to have avoided the danger
  • If you are injured you should seek immediate medical advice either at your GP surgery or the local Accident and Emergency Department at hospital. Make the hospital aware where and how your accident happened. This will assist your case as there will be further proof of the circumstances.

What should I consider before making a claim?

  • Was the danger obvious, and if not – were there warnings or signage of the risks?
  • Was the accident area well-lit, with adequate barriers or support if the ground was uneven?
  • Your vulnerability as a victim. i.e. are you elderly or disabled, or acting on behalf of a small child? Allowances should be made for the lack of mobility of visitors or lack of knowledge and understanding of any warnings in place.
  • Most supermarkets have systems of inspection and have a ‘clean as you go’ policy. If the supermarket has a system of inspection and cleaning to prevent accidents, this must be considered.

If I have to take time off work because of the accident, will I get sick pay?

If you need time off work due to an accident in a public place, your employer may agree to pay you full sick pay – but this will depend on your contract and may be at the discretion of your employer. It is therefore ideal to check with your employer to clarify this and ensure you obtain sick notes from your GP to support your time off work.

If you have incurred a loss of earnings, this can be included as part of your claim if it is supported by the medical evidence. You will have to provide copies of your wage slips for 13 weeks pre-accident and your wage slips following the accident so the loss can be calculated and supported.

If you have to take time off work, you could be eligible to be paid by your employers in full or by claiming SSP or Statutory Sick Pay. In order to claim SSP you have to:

  • Have done some work for your employer.
  • Been off work for over four full days in a row.
  • Earn on average £118 per week.

If you are not sure what kind of benefits you are entitled to claim, the charity Turn2Us can provide further information and support to you.


Please note: Any benefits which are claimed for as a result of your accident must be offset against any successful loss of earnings claim or care claim depending on the type of benefits. The Defendant will register the claim with the Department of Work and Pensions who will provide us with this information. If you have not claimed for any benefits, this should not affect you.

How do I make a claim?

You can begin your enquiries by contacting one of our team to arrange a free initial consultation. Successful claims will be carried out on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis.

You must bring a claim within three years from the date of your accident, but we would advise that you bring a claim as soon as possible to pursue the matter. We are of the belief that it is better to get peace of mind by checking if you have a claim, rather than letting the time run out and never knowing.


If you had an accident in a public place but the company has closed the shop or a new company has taken over, can you still make a claim?

  • It does not matter that the shop has closed down, so long as they had Public Liability Insurance at the time of your accident. If your accident happened in a shop as part of a big chain, we can contact the Head Office. If it transpires the premises did not have any Public Liability insurance at the time of your accident, it would make your claim more difficult to pursue.

How long will my case take to run?

It will depend on various matters such as:

  • The level of your injury
  • Any ongoing treatment you may be having
  • Whether your employers admit fault
  • Whether proceedings would need to be issued to secure compensation
  • The speed of communication between parties

Each case is different, and whether an insurance company agrees to deal with a case depends on a number of factors. It is therefore very difficult to advise on the length of time a case may take as it may be that it is not clear who is responsible for your accident. Your solicitor shall advise you if there are issues that arise which will mean the duration of your case will be affected.

Oakwood Solicitors Ltd


Why use Oakwood Solicitors to make your Occupier Liability/Accident in a Public Place Case?

We have experts in Occupier’s Liability cases and over twenty years of experience in running and pursuing such claims.

We will ensure that we update you at every stage of the case and you will have an experienced, dedicated case handler from the very beginning.  It can be very stressful after an injury, and our team can assist you by breaking down the legal jargon during the process, and listening to you.

How will my case be funded?

We offer a No Win No fee funding option which means that unless you win your case you will not have to pay anything. There are no hidden charges and we do not ask for any money upfront.

Useful charities/websites

Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents – Rospa

Lighthouse Club

Turn 2 Us


For any advice about Public Liability claims, get in touch today for a free initial consultation. Choose one of the methods on the right-hand side of this page, or call us on 0113 200 9787 to find out how we can help you.

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