Slips, Trips, Falls and TV

I’ve heard on many TV shows about the large payouts people receive when they’ve had an accident whilst out in a supermarket or shopping mall. Can you explain the true facts and what people can claim for if they have an accident?

Slip, trips and falls in supermarkets and shopping malls are often in the news. A recent news report maintained that supermarkets and shopping malls pay over $100 million dollars a year in compensation to people injured in slip and fall accidents on their premises.

A recent decision of the High Court of Australia, has helped clarify exactly what needs to be shown to be successful in a slip and fall compensation claim. In Strong v WoolworthsMrs Strong suffered serious spinal injuries when she fell outside a Woolworths store. Mrs Strong had an amputated right leg and walked with the aid of crutches. On the day of the accident, one of her crutches came into contact with a chip, which led to her falling heavily. The chip was on the floor in a shopping area for which Woolworths was responsible.

Mrs Strong commenced court proceedings in the District Court, claiming damages for negligence. The negligence alleged was Woolworth’s failure to institute and maintain a cleaning system to detect spillages in the area where she slipped. Her claim for compensation in the District Court was successful, with the Court ordering Woolworths to pay over $580,000 in compensation.

Woolworths appealed the decision. Woolworths agreed, that they owed a duty to take reasonable care for the safety of persons coming into their sidewalk area and that on the day of the accident, they did not have a system in place for the periodic cleaning and inspection of this area. However, Woolworths were successful in their argument that Mrs Strong had failed to prove that Woolworth’s negligence was the cause of her injury. Accordingly, the initial judgment of the District Court was set-aside with no compensation awarded to Mrs Strong.

Mrs Strong went to the High Court. The High Court noted that there was always difficulties in slip and trip cases, of establishing a causal connection between the absence of an adequate cleaning system and the person’s injury, when it is unknown when the slippery substance was deposited. Mrs Strong was successful in this appeal and the High Court reinstated her initial award of compensation in the sum of $580,000.

Compensation under the Civil Liability Act

Compensation for a slip and fall accident, in a supermarket or shopping mall, is regulated by the Civil Liability Act. This Act sets out the matters that need to be proved to show that the negligence of the owner of the supermarket, or shopping mall resulted in the injury. As demonstrated in Mrs Strong’s case, she was required to prove that her injury was the result of Woolworths negligence in its lack of a cleaning system.

What sort of compensation?

The compensation that is payable will depend on the severity of the injury and will generally include compensation for the following:

(a) Medical and rehabilitation expenses;

(b) Economic loss such as past and future loss in income; and

(c) Non-economic loss for pain and suffering;

If you are injured in a slip and fall accident, talk to someone that understands the law and what needs to be shown to the Court, to be successful in receiving personal injury compensation. Contact Frank Boitano, at Barwick Boitano Lawyers an Accredited Specialist in Personal Injury.

Call for an obligation free consultation on (02) 9630 0444 or email on for an appointment.

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