Claims for slips, trips and falls compensation are among the most common personal injury claims filed in Ireland. Usually the fall and subsequent injury suffered are due to the fault of no one but the injured party. However, in some cases the accident can be due to negligence of another party who was responsible for a duty of care toward the victim.
What Constitutes Negligence in Slips, Trips and Falls Claims?
A property owner is obliged to take what can be defined as “reasonable” steps to avoid trips and slips occurring on his or her premises. It is of course not completely possible to ensure that such accidents will never happen, and the property owner is protected in law against spurious or unjustified claims. Some common examples of when a compensation claim for slips, trips and falls will not be eligible would include:
- If the plaintiff was trespassing on the relevant property at the time of the accident;
- If the plaintiff behaved in a reckless or dangerous manner causing his own injuries;
- A “reasonable man” would have recognised the dangerous condition and therefore acted to avoid it;
- The owner took normal and reasonable steps to prevent the danger e.g. placing a barrier in front of a temporary hazard, complying in full with health and safety regulation.
As a general rule, property owners owe a duty of care to keep their properties in a reasonably clean and safe manner. This is the case whether the property is publicly or privately owned, and many owners will be insured against slips and falls on their property.
Should a property owner, proprietor or other person with a responsibility towards your health and safety neglect their duty of care to maintain their premises in a reasonably clean and safe state, and you suffer an injury in a slip, trip or fall accident as a result of their negligence, you would be eligible to make a claim for slips, trips and falls compensation.
What is the “Absolute” Duty of Care?
There is one exception to the guidelines detailed above for determining negligence in compensation claims for slips, trips and falls; and that concerns whether a property owner, a proprietor or even the local council has an “absolute” duty of care.
If, for example, you were in a supermarket, and you slipped and fell on milk which had just spilled from the shopper´s trolley immediately in front of you, a court in Ireland would not consider the supermarket in breach of its duty of care as supermarket staff did not have a “reasonable” opportunity to identify the danger and remove it.
Other similar cases in which a defendant would not be found liable for your injuries would be if you fell in the street due to tripping on a raised paving stone which had only just lifted up due to recent inclement weather, if you were to slip on ice which had formed unexpectedly in a store car park during late-night shopping or if you were to slip on an item of food which had recently been dropped from a diner’s plate in a restaurant.
There are ways in which it can be ascertained whether or not the potentially liable party for your injuries could have prevented your accident and injury by taking action within a reasonable period of time. As these vary according to each different situation, if you have suffered an injury in a place of public access which you believe could have been avoided with more care, you should discuss the details of your accident with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity to determine if you have a claim for slips, trips and falls compensation which it is worth your while follow up.
What are the Procedures to Follow after a Slip, Trip or Fall?
Whether you suffer an injury in a slip, trip and fall accident as a pedestrian in the street or as a shop assistant in a shop, the most important procedure to follow after such an accident is to look after your own health. If you have suffered serious injuries, an ambulance should have been called. If you were able get to a hospital or your GP surgery without risk of exacerbating the injury, then that should have been your first course of action.
Gathering evidence of negligence should have not taken precedence in these circumstances, as no amount of compensation for slipping, tripping and falling can ever make up for a lifelong disability which could have been prevented with immediate medical care. Additionally, if you did indeed make the severity of your injury worse by failing to seek immediate medical attention, you will be considered to have contributed to the extent of your injury, and this may alter how much compensation for slips, trips and falls you are likely to be awarded.
When you went to a hospital or doctor´s surgery, a record would have been made in your medical history relating to the nature of your injuries and how they came about. This record will be put to use by your solicitor to support a compensation claim for slipping, tripping or falling; however, if you depended on first aid at the scene of your accident, or tended to your injuries when you went home, no official record of your injuries from slipping, tripped or falling will exist and it may be very difficult for you to advance with an injury claim for slips, trips and falls compensation.
Why Should I Have Slips, Trips and Falls Recorded in the Accident Report Book?
When a slip, trip or fall accident happens at work, in a shop, a restaurant or another place of business it should be noted that the proprietor would generally keep an accident report book on the premises. You should request that details of the incident are recorded immediately if you have not done so already. In certain categories of slips, trips and falls accidents, the person charged with maintaining the accident report book may be obligated to report the accident to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).
Should the HSA then investigate the reason for your accident, and discover that the owner or proprietor of the premises has been negligent by breaching their duty of care, their report will strengthen your injury compensation claim for slipping, tripping or falling significantly. In normal circumstances your solicitor will later ask for copies of the relevant accident report book entries along with CCTV footage of the incident (if applicable) which will be used as evidence to reinforce your case.
Should the business in which you sustained your injury fail to keep an accident report book on the premises this is not necessarily damaging to your case, as a court may consider that this reflects an overall atmosphere of negligence on their part. The most important thing is that you request that the accident be recorded.
How Should I Make Use of My Phone’s Camera?
It may seem to be stating the obvious but given the shock and upset that we can feel after even a relatively minor accident, many of us often forget that we have a camera in our pocket. It is a good idea to use the camera and/or video function present on most modern cell phones to record images of the scene after the accident, wherever it occurred, to show exactly what we tripped or slipped on.
At all costs try not to discuss liability for the accident at the scene. Although this may not always be easy, given the natural upset and possible anger that we may experience when hurt due to the negligence of another, you should always remain polite and ask that the details be filed in the accident report book without admitting any responsibility for the accident.
Depending on the specific nature of your injuries, you might also be able to gather details of other people at the scene of your accident who were witnesses to the incident. Possible witnesses who could support your claim for slipping, tripping or falling might also include shop or restaurant employees, other shoppers in a store or supermarket, or local residents if you wish to claim compensation for slipping, tripping and falling in the street.
How Should I Make a Claim for a Slip, Trip or Fall Accident?
Compensation claims for slip, trip or fall accidents should be initially made to the Injuries Board Ireland. A solicitor should help you with the completion and submission of the application for assessment (Form A) as, regardless of whether you are filling out the hard copy of the form or submitting your application for assessment online, there is the danger that an individual unfamiliar with the process may omit an important element which affects how much compensation for a slip, trip or fall your application is assessed for.
Once the Injuries Board Ireland has received your application for assessment, supporting documents and payment, it will then get in touch with the person(s) responsible for your injury and seek their permission to continue with the assessment of your claim. It may be necessary at this point for you to have a further independent medical examination in order that the Injuries Board can assess how well (or not) you are recuperating from your injuries.
Once the evaluation of your claim is finished, the Injuries Board will send you and the negligent party a Notice of Assessment which – if both you and the negligent party concur on the amount assessed – will be followed by an Order to Pay. Should either party argue the Assessment for being too high or too low, or consent be declined at the beginning of your assessment, the Injuries Board will issue you with an authorisation to take your claim for slips, trips and falls compensation through the courts.
What About Negotiation, Court Action and Insurance Companies?
If you employ a solicitor from the very beginning of the claims process, he or she will also directly contact the insurance company of the party responsible for your injury and attempt to negotiate a settlement of your slips, trips and falls claim while the Injuries Board proceeds with the assessment process. This may lead to a full and adequate settlement of slips, trips and falls compensation far quicker than if you wait for the Injuries Board to complete its process – in which case the Injuries Board will be advised, and your application for assessment cancelled.
However, if an agreement on how much compensation for slipping, tripping or falling you are entitled to cannot be reached, court action will be necessary. Your solicitor is unable to initiate court action without the authorisation form from the Injuries Board, and this is why applications for assessment are submitted to the Injuries Board even when there is a strong probability of your claim being settled out-of-court.
With the possibility of significant court costs – and the potential of encountering a judge sympathetic to your situation – many insurance companies are willing to settle claims for slipping, tripping and falling before court action becomes a necessity; however, you should always beware of an unsolicited approach from an insurance company made to you soon after you have been injured in a slip, trip or fall accident for which you were not to blame.
Your entry in the negligent party´s accident report book may have alerted the insurance company to your accident and, as insurance companies are always eager to cut costs, they may offer you a settlement of compensation – while you are at your most vulnerable – which does not adequately reflect the extent of the injury you suffered and the impact it has had on your quality of life.
No matter how tempting the offer may be – particularly if you are worried about short-term finances – it should always be referred to your solicitor. Should you inadvertently accept an offer of compensation for slips, trips and falls which is inadequate to pay for your medical treatment or support your family while you are unable to work, you will not be have the opportunity to go back to the insurance company and ask for more.
How Much is Compensation for Slip, Trip and Fall Injuries?
How much compensation for slip, trip and fall injuries you will be entitled to will depend on the specific nature and extent of your injuries in relation to the Book of Quantum – a publication which lists a detailed selection of injuries and allocates them a financial value. This value will be adjusted to account for your age, general standard of health before the accident and – in claims for slips, trips and falls in which your injuries have resulted in a visible scar – your sex.
You will also be compensated for any decrease in your quality of life if you are unable to complete normal everyday activities, participate in leisure pursuits or engage in social events because of your injuries; and be entitled to claim slips, trips and falls compensation for any emotional trauma you may have experienced if the nature of your accident was particularly upsetting.
Any financial costs or losses which are directly attributable to your accident can also be recuperated in an injury claim for slipping, tripping or falling and, with so many potential variables, it is understandable that no two claims are likely to ever be the same, even when the injuries suffered are identical. To ensure you receive your full entitlement to compensation for slips, trips and falls, it is in your best interests to discuss your personal situation with a solicitor at the earliest practical moment.
Slip, Trip and Fall Claims Advice
There are a range of scenarios which have not been included in this page such as slip, trip and fall injuries to children and circumstances where you may have contributed to the cause of your accident by your own lack of care and attention, but were not completely at fault. Any query you may have about claiming slips, trips and falls compensation should be looked into as soon as possible before evidence of negligence is removed and the memories of witnesses fade.
In Ireland, solicitors will often offer a free initial assessment of your claim for trips, slips and falls which will include answering any queries you may have. It may also be possible to recover any costs associated with pursuing legal action for a slip, trip or fall injury for which you were not to blame as part of your compensation settlement, and a solicitor will outline these to you when you call.
It is important to note that each case is different. If you have been unlucky enough to have sustained an injury in a slip, trip or fall, and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim you are advised to discuss all of the relevant points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.