What to do following an accident

Accidents happen – of course they do, it is a fact of life. But sometimes, accidents are caused by someone else's action or inaction and could have been avoided.

Here, we look at some of the key types of accidents that people can get injured in, and explain what they should do if they find themselves in that scenario. This includes accidents in shops and supermarkets, accidents in the workplace, accidents in someone else's home, and accidents outside in the street or in public places.

This article does not cover road traffic accidents, which we cover in a separate article and can be viewed here.

Accidents in shops or supermarkets

We've all been in shops and supermarkets and seen yellow signs on the floors. They are used in aisles to warn you that the floor is wet or that something has been spilt.

Spillages happen – people go to pick up a product and drop it by accident on the floor, accidentally knock something off the shelf, or have an overloaded basket or trolley meaning that an item on the top falls to the ground. Glass bottles smash easily and cartons of liquid can quickly explode on impact making quite a mess.

Often this is the fault of the individual customer or perhaps of their children grabbing items as they pass them. However, it can also be the fault of the supermarket – for example if they place large piles of products in the middle of the supermarket that are on "special offer". It may be that aisles are too narrow or that shelves are too full which causes them to fall off as customers try to get past.

Part of the problem can also be that many supermarkets now open 24 hours a day. As a result, employees have to stack shelves at the same time as customers are in the shop walking up and down the aisles and trying to make purchases. Previously they would have done so when the shop was closed, making it easier for both the employees and the customers.

We've all experienced the frustration of trying to reach a product on a shelf which is obstructed by an employee unloading a trolley. This can lead to an increase in accidents. It can also be equally frustrating for the employee, trying to do their job but having to constantly stop to allow shoppers to get to the shelves. This can cause them to rush to do jobs quickly around shoppers, and in that sort of environment, accidents can happen.

It is also the case that shops are often more crowded now at certain times than they used to be. With both partners in a household often now in full-time work, it means that many people don't get the opportunity to go to the shops or the supermarket during the day, meaning that more people tend to descend on supermarkets in the evenings and at weekends. This increase at peak times means that accidents are more likely to happen.

Usually, spillages are dealt with quite quickly, but occasionally yoghurt, a carton of soup, a creamy cake or some orange juice might be left on the floor unnoticed.

It isn't just the spilt product either that can lead to accidents. Sometimes the actual cleaning up of the spilt product can lead to an accident too, for example if the floor is mopped with water to clean up the mess, thus making the floor slippery, but warning signs are not put in place correctly, if at all.

Slipping and falling in a supermarket or shop can lead to a lot of pain. Essentially, the old saying that there's no point crying over spilt milk isn't always true, as spilt milk that causes an accident can lead to a lot of crying.

In order to have a case for claiming compensation, your solicitor needs to be able to prove that the shop or supermarket did something wrong. This is not always easy. So in order to help, take photos of the accident and the scene of the accident, get the names and contact details or any witnesses and write your own thorough and detailed notes of what happened so that you have these to refer back to.

Accidents at work

One of the places where you are most likely to have an accident is at work. Quite simply this is because you spend a lot of time there – usually around 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and therefore over the years there is a chance that, however careful you or your employer are, something will go wrong.

However, your employer has a duty of care to ensure that you are safe at work, that you have the right equipment to carry out your role, that you have been correctly trained to carry out your role, and that you have competent work colleagues who have also been correctly trained to carry out their role. If your employee fails in their duty of care and you are injured as a result then you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. This would include compensating you for loss of earnings if you were unable to work as a result of the accident. The claim would be made against your employer's insurance (which by law they must have) rather than against them directly.

If you do have an accident at work, make sure it is recorded in the accident book, that you notify your union if you are a member of one, that you take detailed and thorough notes that you can refer back to, and that you get the names and contact details of any witnesses.

Accidents in someone's home

What happens if you are in someone's house, and you have a nasty fall because of something that wasn't your fault? Chances are if you are in that person's home that you will know them well and won't want to make a claim against them, but if you are successful the claim will come off of the individual home owner's insurance policy, and so won't impact them financially.

Alternatively, it might be that you have a fall in the house that you live in as a tenant. If this happens and it isn't your fault – for example, if your landlord was meant to have repaired something but hasn't or if work has been done on the property in an unsatisfactory way that has left it dangerous – then it may be that you can make a claim against your landlord.

Again, evidence is key, so take photos and detailed notes.

Accidents outside in the street

Following the economic crash in 2007 and 2008 and the subsequent implementation of austerity, local councils have had to make major cutbacks. This has meant that there has been less money available to spend on roads and footpaths. This has meant that, in many cases, the state of both have noticeably deteriorated in the last few years.

Quite often councils just aren't bothering to fix minor damage to paths and roads until they become larger problems, and even once they become a bigger issue we are having to wait long periods of time for councils to get round to sort them out. Less staff and less money to spend means that there is often a queue to get potholes and other damages to paths and roads fixed.

Of course, that is of little comfort to people when their car hits a pothole and they get a puncture, their bike gets damaged when they hit a damaged bit of the road, or if a pedestrian falls over on the pavement or road due to a defect. If someone trips over a hole they can land flat on their face – they could even trip and end up on the road in front of a car rather than on the pavement. This can be particularly dangerous for young children or for elderly people. Elderly people may end up with broken bones or worse as the result of a fall, and once they have fallen may struggle to get back up again.

If you do have an accident as the result of a damaged pavement or road then the first thing you probably think to do is call your local council. However, you should bypass this and call your solicitor straight away so that they can photograph the scene of the accident, measure it and record other details. Otherwise, if you call the council and they come straight out and fix the problem, they have also covered up the evidence that could have been used in your case.

Cases like this have become more difficult to win in recent years, as judges have become sympathetic to council's pleas that they have less money to deal with road and pavement repairs. It is therefore even more important that that you act quickly and gather as much evidence as possible.

What is needed to make a personal injury claim?

There are three key things that you will need to prove to be eligible for compensation after an accident.

Firstly that you suffered an injury that meant you had to go to a hospital or doctor to receive medical treatment. If the injury was not bad enough to need medical treatment then you will not be able to successfully claim for it. So, if you are in an accident that wasn't your fault and want to make a claim, you will need to see a medical professional and get the injury recorded.

Secondly, that the accident happened within the last three years. So, you cannot claim if you fell over in the supermarket ten years ago, didn't do anything about it at the time, and have now remembered it and think it might be worth trying to get compensation. This time limit therefore means that time is of the essence, but even without this that would be the case, as it is vital for a case to get evidence, and the more time that passes, the harder that can be.

Finally, the accident has to have been the fault of somebody else, at least in part, whether that is the supermarket for not cleaning up, the employer, the homeowner or the local council. A personal injury solicitor can help to decide if someone is actually at least partly to blame for your accident, and therefore if you have a case.

What to do next?

If you have been injured in an accident and feel that it wasn't your fault then you should contact a successful personal injury solicitor as soon as possible. Whatever type of accident you have been in, you will be making a claim against an insurance company. Insurance companies have lots of experience in these types of cases and will try to avoid paying any compensation to victims, or as little as possible.

Cooks Solicitors have been in business in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, for over twenty-eight years, and are highly experienced in dealing with personal injury claims. Nigel Cook has over thirty years dealing with personal injury claims. He has dealt with multi-million-pound cases and has taken cases to the Court of Appeal. He will either be directly in charge of your claim or very closely supervise it. He is a strong believer in explaining things simply and fighting for clients who have a good case. To speak to us about your case and for free advice, please call us on 01782 713 755.