No one expects a shopping trip to be interrupted or end with a painful fall, but it happens. The ultimate outcome for your health and recovery often depends on what you do next.
The answer to that all-important question “what can I do?” really comes in two parts – the immediate checklist and the things to do (and avoid) in the days and weeks following.
You may feel clumsy or embarrassed, but there’s no need. Shopping centres and other public places must be maintained in ways that protect busy people from being injured. You have the right to feel safe in public places. You also have a legal right to compensation if you have been harmed because the shopping centre has failed to take reasonable steps to maintain a safe environment.
The immediate to-do list
So there you are, sitting in a puddle on the floor, nursing a sore hip. As soon as you catch your breath, do (or begin to do) these nine things:
- Reach out to any witnesses and get their contact information;
- If your injuries are visible, take photographs of them;
- Take photos of the location of the accident before it gets cleaned up;
- Write down everything you remember about what happened;
- Check for CCTV cameras and take pictures of their location. Try to get these records within 24 hours;
- Get in touch with the shopping centre manager about the incident so it can be recorded;
- Go to your doctor, regardless of how minor your injuries appear to be. Even if they don’t hurt today, they may hurt tomorrow;
- Call a lawyer who has special expertise in slip-and-fall accidents. Don’t apologise to store management for having been careless. Don’t accept any friendly offer made by the shopping centre until you have had a chance to speak with your lawyer;
- Keep a record of your medical expenses and the extra help you needed, even if you did not have to pay for it.
What is the shopping centre’s obligation?
Claims that arise in public places such as shopping centres are usually covered by a body of law known as public liability law. The law defines the duty of a public landlord to maintain a safe place. The particulars of that duty, especially as applied to a shopping centre, may include:
- Keeping the floors dry and clean throughout the day;
- Making sure that trolleys are stacked, clean and dry;
- Maintaining adequate lighting inside, outside and in parking areas;
- Keeping walkways to and from the shopping centre in good repair;
- Installing a proper security system, maintaining emergency exits and having a disaster plan in place;
- Roping off areas undergoing maintenance and posting prominent warning signs;
- Ensuring shelves are stacked correctly and display units secured; and
- Making sure that restrooms are clean and safe.
Back, neck and hip injuries are distressingly common in situations where these safety standards are not met. Any of these can be serious enough to require medical treatment or even an extended hospital stay and missed time from work. At worst, an injured person may permanently lose some ability to lift, stand or sit for prolonged periods.
Claims for compensation should properly reflect the extent of the physical and psychological harm as well as long-term economic and employment consequences. An embarrassing slip or trip can have longer range consequences than most injured people realise in the moment. We are all conditioned to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off, but this is no time for bravado.
Your attorney can help you assess the nature and extent of your claim in a broader context, and to make sure that you lodge it within the relatively short period of time permitted for these sorts of injury claims.
If you have been hurt in a fall in a shopping centre or any other public place, the attorneys at Owen Hodge Lawyers would like to help. Please call us as soon as possible at 1800 770 780 to schedule a consultation.