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Occupiers Liability Claims Legal Guide

Written by Carl Waring

Personal injury Q&A Centre
Personal injury Q&A Centre

What is an Occupiers Liability Claim?

Most people instantly know what a ‘car accident claim‘ or an ‘accident at work claim‘ means. Although fewer will probably understand the term’ occupiers liability claim’, the types of accidents which give rise to Occupiers Liability Claims occur every day of the week.

For example:

  • Suppose you are visiting a shopping centre and slip, fall and injure yourself because a pool of water has formed on the floor due to the roof leaking (and there is no warning of the potential hazard). In that case, you may have a case for bringing an Occupiers Liability Compensation Claim against the building’s occupier.
  • If you are staying in a guest house or hotel and fall on a set of stairs because part of the handrail is missing and the lighting is poor, you could have reasonable prospects of bringing an Occupiers Liability claim against the occupier of the building.
  • If you are visiting a concert venue to watch your favourite band and a piece of masonry falls from the ceiling, injuring you, you would likely succeed in an Occupiers Liability Claim brought against the occupier(s) of the venue.

To help you understand more about Occupiers Liability Claims, this article will :

  1. Look at the law relating to this area
  2. Without using legal jargon, define what we mean when we talk about ‘occupiers’, ‘premises’ and ‘visitors’
  3. Check out the legal duties occupiers owe to visitors who are lawfully visiting their premises to keep them safe and what happens when they breach those duties.
  4. Provide examples of types of Occupiers Liability Claims
  5. Investigate whether trespassers can bring Occupiers Liability Claims.
  6. Find out if occupiers have any defences to Occupiers Liability Claims
  7. Show you the steps to take to make an Occupiers Liability claim

The law in England and Wales relating to Occupiers Liability

According to common law, occupiers of premises are responsible for the health and safety of visitors to their premises. They owe them a duty of care. The common law is reinforced by legislation in the form of the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957, which sets out that:

  1. Occupiers of premises owe a duty of care to all their lawful visitors, which means they must take such care as is reasonable given all the circumstances of the case to ensure the visitor will be reasonably safe whilst using the premises for the purpose which the visitor is invited, or permitted, by the occupier to be there for.

So, visitors to shopping malls are permitted to be there to walk around the mall to view or buy from the shops, restaurants and cafes in the mall.

  1. Occupiers must exercise a higher duty of care in the case of children who are visitors to their premises and may be less careful than adults in taking care of their safety. In other words, occupiers are under a higher duty to keep children safe when they are visitors to their premises.
  2. Equally, occupiers are entitled to expect that visitors with extra skills who are on their premises to exercise those skills – such as visiting tradespeople: engineers, plumbers, electricians, and cleaners – will be aware of and take precautions to guard against any risks normally inherent when they carry out their skilled work.

However, should, for example, an electrician suffer injury as a result of tripping or slipping on defective flooring, that isn’t part and parcel of them doing the work that necessitated their visit to the occupiers premises. In such cases, the occupier would still be liable for any injuries sustained by the electrician.

  1. Occupiers liability arises when the danger is associated with the state of the property rather than the activities conducted on it. So, suppose you are visiting a café in the shopping mall and hot coffee is accidentally poured onto you because of the negligence of a café employee. In that case, that is not related to the state of the property.

Consequently, this is not an example of occupiers liability. If you suffer scalding from the coffee being poured onto you, you may still have a claim in negligence against the café owner for their employee’s negligence. Still, it would not be an Occupiers Liability claim.

  1. However, if any part of the premises is known to be in a state of disrepair or there are other known hazards relating to the property, and the occupier is aware of such defects or hazards, they must take reasonable precautions to guard against the dangers posed.

Further reading on occupiers liability claims

What is an occupier?2024-05-16T13:59:53+01:00

For the purposes of the Occupiers Liability Act 1957, an occupier is a person (or ‘persons’) who wields sufficient control over the premises to be responsible for rectifying any defects in the property that they are aware of or ought to be aware of.

Note that we refer to ‘person or persons’. There may be several occupiers of a premises, either permanently or temporarily. An example of temporary occupancy of premises could be when a firm of building contractors is hired to carry out renovations or other building work on the premises. During the time the contractors are carrying out work at the premises, they are likely to be a ‘person’ exercising sufficient control over the premises to be considered an ‘occupier’.

So, the owner of the premises is not always the sole occupier, and, in some cases, the owner may not be considered an occupier. For instance,  when premises are leased, the tenancy agreement may stipulate that the tenant becomes responsible for the repair and maintenance of the premises. In such cases, the tenant could become the sole ‘occupier’ during the duration of the tenancy. It will depend on the precise terms of the tenancy agreement.

Companies, local authorities, or other public bodies and organisations responsible for the upkeep of premises may be occupiers, either solely or in conjunction with others, which may or may not include the owner.

Note: As you will have gathered from the above section, finding out the identity of an occupier of premises where an accident occurred due to property defects is not always straightforward. An experienced firm of personal injury solicitors used to handling Occupiers liability Claims will be able to advise you against whom the claim should be brought.

What do we mean by premises?2024-05-16T14:01:28+01:00

The definition of the word ‘premises’ for the purposes of bringing an Occupiers Liability Claim is a broad one. It includes land, buildings, vessels, vehicles and aircraft. (Occupiers Liability Act 1957, section 1(2).

Who is a lawful visitor to the premises?2024-05-16T14:02:18+01:00

To be a ‘lawful visitor’ to the premises, you must be able to show that you have:

  1. Actual permission – i.e. you were specifically invited to be on the premises. An example would be if you had a pre-arranged business appointment at the premises.
  2. Implied permission – this definition can become a little blurred, but generally comes down to an assumption that a person has permission to be on the premises.

For instance, the purpose of a shopping centre is that it is open to visitors who want to visit shops in the centre, whether to browse or buy from them or visit cafés and restaurants in the centre. Visitors have implied permission to be on the premises for the purposes for which a shopping centre exists.

An exception to this would be if the occupier has specifically barred an individual from visiting the premises due to previous antisocial behaviour whilst on the premises.

Likewise, suppose a visitor to the centre decides not to leave at the designated closing time and hides out of sight until the premises have been locked up for the night. In that case, they immediately become an unauthorised visitor or, in other words, a trespasser.

  1. Lawful right of entry – Examples of visitors with a lawful right to enter the premises include police officers, firefighters, and paramedics attending the premises to perform their duties.
What are some examples of accidents that could lead to an Occupiers Liability Claim?2024-05-16T14:02:58+01:00

Slip and fall accidents occur when a lawful visitor to the occupiers premises slips and falls due to a slippery floor, uneven flooring, loose mats or rugs, dusty surfaces, or icy floors. Accidents of this type can happen indoors or outdoors. Liability will attach to the occupier if they are aware of the hazard but have done nothing to remedy the situation, have failed to provide clear signs to warn visitors of the danger or cordon off the area surrounding the defect.

Trip and fall accidents happen when a person trips over an obstacle or hazard on the property, such as a loose tile, exposed wiring, or a defective carpet, falls down poorly maintained staircases, or trips and falls in a car park with inadequate lighting.

Falling objects from height accidents occur when an object falls from a height and injures a visitor to the premises. An example of this could be collapsing shelves, work tools falling from scaffolding, and debris falling from the roof of the building.

Accidents caused by inadequate maintenance of the premises result from the failure of the property owner to maintain the premises in a safe condition. Examples include tripping accidents caused by a failure to keep the premises free of clutter or tripping over the edge of a carpet that has become raised due to wear and tear.

Dog bite or animal attack accidents happen when a person is bitten or attacked by a dog or other animal while a visitor to the property.

Swimming pool accidents can occur when accidents happen in or around swimming pools due to inadequate safety measures or a lack of supervision.

Faulty equipment accidents result from accidents caused by defective or poorly maintained equipment on the property, such as damaged playground equipment or faulty gym equipment.

Fire or electrical accidents involve injuries caused by fires that start due to worn-out sockets that haven’t been properly earthed or wiring that breaks. Accidents of this nature usually occur due to a lack of routine maintenance inspections.

What are the rules relating to trespassers and occupiers liability?2024-05-16T14:03:36+01:00

A trespasser is someone who:

  1. Has no legal right to be on the premises
  2. Has not been invited to the premises
  3. Has no implied permission to be on the premises – such as the person who stays behind after a shopping centre closes. In the example provided, the person strayed from being a lawful visitor to an unlawful visitor or trespasser when the shopping centre closed with them still inside the building.

Trespassers may be persons in or on premises who know they have no right to be there or accidental trespassers who don’t realise they shouldn’t be on the premises.

The Occupiers Liability Act 1984 addresses whether an occupier owes a duty of care to trespassers, and Section 1(3) of this Act of Parliament provides the answer. In a nutshell:

  1. An occupier of premises owes a duty of care to trespassers on their premises if:
  2. The occupier knows or ‘has reasonable belief’ there is a risk to the safety of trespassers on their premises.
  3. The occupier knows or has reasonable grounds to believe that the unlawful visitor is, or may stray into, the area of danger.
  4. Knowing all the circumstances, the occupier should have reasonably foreseen the existing risk and taken action to avoid the trespasser getting injured.

So, occupiers owe a duty of care to trespassers, but only if certain conditions are met, i.e., the occupier knows or ought to know there is an existing risk.

Contrast this with the duty of care owed to lawful visitors, which is ‘a duty of care to all their lawful visitors, to take such care as is reasonable, to ensure the visitor will be reasonably safe.’

Does an occupier have any defences to Occupiers Liability claims?2024-05-16T14:04:25+01:00

There are defences to Occupiers Liability Claims, and these are:

  1. Volenti non fit injuria – loosely translated from Latin- means the person making a claim consented to the risk of injury suffered. This may cover a case where a lawful visitor to the occupier’s premises decides to undertake an activity on the premises despite the occupier warning them it would be dangerous, and the visitor suffers injury.
  2. Contributory negligence – where the visitor’s actions contribute to the injuries they suffer, albeit the occupier was still liable for the accident in the first place. A finding by a court of contributory negligence only reduces the compensation the visitor who makes the claim will receive.
  3. The occupier has taken reasonable steps to warn visitors of any dangers and clearly communicated the risks to them.

What steps should you take to make an Occupiers Liability Claim?

  1. Report the Accident: Report the accident to the occupier as soon as possible, preferably in writing.
  2. Seek Medical Attention: It’s always important to prioritise your health by seeking prompt medical attention after an accident. Doing this not only ensures you get your injuries assessed and treated by medical professionals but also means there will be a formal medical record of your injuries and how they occurred.
  3. Document the Scene: Take photographs (or a video) of the scene showing the defect or hazard that led to the injury. Visual evidence may be a key component in support of your claim.
  4. Collect Witness Information: If there were any witnesses to the accident, try to get their contact details. Witness statements provide an independent account of events to support your claim.
  5. Consult a Solicitor: Consulting with a personal injury solicitor who specialises in occupiers liability claims could be the best step you take to maximise your chances of bringing a successful compensation claim. Expert personal injury solicitors can offer sound and practical legal advice on the merits of your claim.
  6. No Win No Fee Occupiers Liability claims solicitor: There’s nothing to stop you from bringing your own personal injury claim against the occupier on whose premises you suffered the accident.

However, if you have got this far into the article, after reading it in full, we suspect you’ll see that Occupiers Liability Claims aren’t always straightforward.

Why put yourself through the stress and difficulties of pursuing your claim without legal help and navigating the personal injury claims process, which can prove challenging, when an experienced personal injury solicitors firm, like Mooneerams Solicitors, will take your claim on without you having to pay expensive legal fees.

Mooneerams Solicitors usually handles Occupiers Liability Claims for its clients using No Win No Fee arrangements. With the benefit of a No Win No Fee Occupiers Liability claim, you’ll only pay us a fee if your claim is successful. If you lose, you won’t have to pay anything.

Call Mooneerams now on 029 2048 3615 to discuss your claim with one of our team.

We hope you’ve found our ‘Occupiers Liability Claims Legal Guide’ informative and interesting. Talk to us now at 029 2048 3615 to speak to one of our personal injury solicitors today.

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