Slips, trips and falls – have you been injured in a public place? “I had just dropped the kids off at school and nipped in to pick up some milk from the supermarket, when hurrying through the fruit and veg section I suddenly found myself up in the air and landing heavily on my back. I can still see the lettuce leaf stuck to my shoe as I was lying there in pain thinking ‘I don’t have private health insurance so who is going to pay my bills.’” “I was out with Mum getting her weekly shop at the market, I lost sight of her as I went to order the ham and next thing I know I find Mum on the ground with spilt liquid all around her. An ambulance and hospital admission later, it was the last time I was able to take Mum out shopping and now she doesn’t leave the house.” “On Saturday night I was out with friends and we decided to go to the shopping centre to see a movie, I was chatting with my mates when we ducked around a column to avoid an oncoming crowd, I tripped on the corner of a bin hidden behind the column. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but now I need surgery and I can’t afford to miss time off work.” Do any of the above unfortunate scenarios sound familiar? All sorts of hazards may present themselves when we are out in public, often at times when we least expect it. Each of the above unfortunate scenarios are based on real clients’ stories. If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you or someone you know, then you may have a public liability compensation claim. Our lawyers have represented many victims of slips, trips and falls with most of these occurring in shopping centres and supermarkets. Slipping on liquid is more common than you may think – we’ve seen clients slipping on oil, juice and in one unfortunate occasion a child’s vomit, which can cause a person to suffer significant injuries with life changing consequences. Even the humble hot chip can be a lurking danger in busy food courts. Fruit and vegetables are not things you would normally associate with causing a risk of permanent injury, but lettuce leaves, beans, grapes and cherries have all featured in cases where we have successfully claimed compensation. If you or your friend or family member has found themselves in a similar situation, understandably you want to know your options. At the start of a shopping centre or supermarket fall claim, the three most common questions asked by clients are: Can the shopping centre or supermarket apologize and / or pay my out of pocket expenses?What compensation can I claim?How much compensation can I receive? This article can only provide general legal advice. It can’t be specific to you or your circumstances, because no one has had an accident exactly like yours, with exactly the same injuries and consequences. We can however offer some general advice. 1. Can the shopping centre or supermarket apologise and/or pay my out of pocket expenses? While the desire to want to hold the shopping centre or supermarket accountable for what has happened is understandable, the focus of a claim under the Wrongs Act 1958 is to provide financial compensation to an injured person, not an apology. In addition, insurers of shopping centres and supermarkets do not usually pay out of pocket expenses and even if they do offer, they will want something in return, like an agreement not to bring a claim against them. As some claims can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars (more on that below) we usually do not recommend entering into any type of agreement that limits your ability to bring a claim, especially if you have a significant injury or significant or unknown future losses and expenses 2. What compensation can I claim? If you can establish that the shopping centre or supermarket breached their duty of care and contributed to the accident which caused your injuries then you can claim for past and future medical expenses, past and future loss of earnings and the costs of the care you receive. If you have suffered a “significant injury” then you can also pursue compensation for your pain and suffering. 3. How much compensation can I receive? This is a very difficult question to answer as everyone’s loss is different. The maximum amount of compensation for pain and suffering damages available in Victoria for those who are most catastrophically injured and can establish their claims in negligence against the shopping centre or supermarket, is $646,000 plus they can be awarded loss of earnings up to 3 times the amount of average weekly earnings. Personal injury law is about the person and every claim, like every person, is unique. If you still have questions or just want to talk to a lawyer, Arnold Thomas & Becker offer a no obligation enquiry service which is absolutely free. You can call us on 13 00 333 300, or even better, email a picture of where you fell, details of how you fell and injuries suffered to [email protected] One of our lawyers will then give you a call to advise you of what steps you can take to claim compensation and hopefully help you get back on your feet.