If you’re injured while in a supermarket or shopping centre as a result of negligence on the part of the owner or centre management, you may be able to lodge a personal injury claim. The success of the claim, though, will depend on the ability to prove negligence on the part of the property owner or management.
Supermarket accidents in South Africa
Even with strict government regulations in place and routine safety inspections, supermarket accidents are a fairly common occurrence in South Africa.
In 2016, a concrete slab slipped at the Menlyn Park Shopping Centre – and just two weeks later, glass panes fell on and injured construction workers at the same mall. These incidents following ceiling collapses at East Rand and Sandton City malls.
Other examples of South African supermarket or shopping centre accidents have included:
- injury to a schoolgirl by an escalator
At the Galleria Shopping Mall, a six-year-old schoolgirl from Amanzimtoti got her foot stuck in an escalator at the Galleria Shopping Mall. The girl was walking barefoot when the accident occurred, and although a woman tried to stop the escalator by pressing the emergency button, it failed to stop. The girl lost part of her foot, including three toes.
- injuries to a family due to glass falling from a skylight
Five members of a Pietermaritzburg family suffered bruising and lacerations when a glass panel fell from a skylight at the Gateway Theatre of Shopping. Among those injured was a 24-year-old woman, who sustained a severe head injury that required nine stitches.
- serious injury due to tripping on defective flooring
A woman from Brakpan tripped and fell in a Spar supermarket due to defective flooring. She sustained soft tissue injuries to her left shoulder and neck, as well as a fracture to her neck.
Common causes of injury in supermarkets
Among the most common causes of injury in supermarkets are:
- damaged trolleys
- improperly positioned, or missing floor mats
- slippery floors – as a result of cleaning, or spillage from produce or refrigerators
- items falling from shelves
- aisle obstructions, including pallets and boxes
- faulty automatic doors, lifts or escalators.
Liability and “duty of care”
It’s a common misperception that if you’re injured in a supermarket or shopping centre, you’ll automatically qualify for compensation.
Property owners and/or property tenants or occupants are legally obliged to take reasonable steps to prevent and minimise harm to those using their premises. This responsibility is referred to as a “duty of care”.
If a supermarket or shopping centre owner has taken reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable accidents and injuries, the owner is unlikely to be liable for damages.
However, if you can prove that the owner was negligent and failed to provide you with reasonable protection, it means the owner has violated their duty of care and may be liable for your injury. In this case, you can claim compensation for relevant medical expenses, loss of income and pain and suffering.
If you’ve been injured in a supermarket or shopping mall and wish to claim damages, the onus is on you and your attorney to show that, on a balance of probabilities, the owner acted negligently.
Before pursuing legal action, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the property owner regularly clean, inspect and repair the premises or equipment? Is there proof of this?
- Did the property owner fail to post warning signs or implement barriers in order to prevent slips, trips and falls?
- Could your own negligence have contributed to the accident?
For example, if you were distracted or engaged in any distracting activity at the time of the accident, or if you were wearing inappropriate footwear that could have contributed to the accident, a court may rule that you’re fully responsible for your own injuries. Alternatively, it may rule that you contributed to your own injuries, in which case your compensation will be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault.
If you believe your injury was a result of negligence, aim to gather sufficient evidence. For example, this can include exact details of the accident, witness statements, surveillance footage, photographs of the scene and medical reports relating to your injuries and subsequent treatment.
Making a claim
Supermarket accident claims for minor injuries don’t usually require an attorney, but it’s in your best interest to consult an attorney who specialises in personal injury claims if you’ve suffered a serious injury.
How DSC Attorneys can help
At DSC Attorneys, our highly experienced personal injury attorneys can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a “no win, no fee” basis.