Shopping centre accident law

In March 2014, members of a family shopping at the well-known Gateway Mall in Durban were seriously injured when a pane of glass fell out of a skylight dome and crashed down onto them.

This is not an everyday occurrence – but actually it’s not uncommon for people to be injured at shopping centres and malls. By way of example, people in shopping centres may be injured due to:

  • shoddy construction work, resulting in ceiling installations or even a roof falling on people
  • ongoing construction, with the risk of injury due to falling debris and with excavations, low barriers and equipment posing trip hazards
  • heavy items such as tins falling off high shelves in supermarkets, or packaging crates not timeously removed
  • malfunctioning elevators, lifts or escalators
  • flawed or slippery floors and stairs, leading to “slip and trip” accidents.

When can you make a personal injury claim?

A shopping centre is responsible for providing a safe environment in which to work, shop and relax. In other words, it’s legally obliged to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable injuries from occurring.

Shopping centre owners or managers may for instance be deemed to be negligent if they fail to demarcate dangerous areas and put up appropriate barriers, clean up spills which make surfaces slippery, repair damaged flooring and pavements and provide adequate lighting. When specific hazards are unavoidable, they need to inter alia ensure that clear, properly visible warnings are posted.

If you or a member of your family is injured at a shopping centre and the injury was due to negligence on the part of the shopping centre (or sometimes it may be an independent contractor who, for example, is appointed to provide cleaning or other services), you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against the centre or other relevant party.

Why make a personal injury claim?

Even apparently fairly minor injuries can result in significant medical expenses. More serious injuries may mean that you need an extended hospital stay, as well as on-going specialist treatment and rehabilitation for a long time afterwards. An injury may also make it necessary for you to take time off work, meaning that you might suffer a loss of income.

If your injury is due to negligence on the part of a shopping centre, supermarket or other responsible party a successful personal injury claim can ensure that these losses will be recouped. You may also receive general damages for pain, suffering and a loss of amenities of life.

Another important point is that successful personal injury claims teach those responsible for public spaces like shopping centres that they can’t get away with putting people at risk. Making a claim could mean that you’ll help prevent someone else from being injured in the future.

What to do when you’re injured at a shopping centre

If you or a family member is injured at a shopping centre, obviously your first concern will be taking care of any medical needs and doing what you can to get through the trauma of the event.

However, it will help with a personal injury claim later if you take certain steps:

  • report the incident to the management of the shopping centre
  • make accurate notes of exactly what occurred and when, contact details for any witnesses and a description of any interaction between you and shopping centre representatives
  • if you have a phone with a camera, even take photographs of where the incident occurred and specifically the cause for the fall or injury.

Ensure that you don’t, under any circumstances, sign any documents you’re given about the incident. Review these properly and discuss them with a personal injury lawyer first. Also, don’t enter into detailed discussions about the incident with shopping centre representatives, beyond making it clear what has occurred and how.

Finally, ensure that you keep any medical records (as well as invoices for medical treatment) as evidence for your claim.

Ensuring the success of a personal injury claim

The best ways to ensure the success of a personal injury claim are to record as much information about the incident and injury as possible, and to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. This type of lawyer has the expertise required to advise you and to navigate the more complex aspects of personal injury cases.

If you or a family member has been injured as described above, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

Contact us to see if you have a claim