What do retailers need to implement in order to protect themselves and their customers?
Andy Millmore, head of litigation at Harbottle & Lewis said that, for the most part, legislation is straight forward in cases of injury on retail premises, as it comes under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957.
The act states that the occupier extends a “common duty of care” to all visitors. This means that retailers must exercise “reasonable care” to ensure that shoppers or employees are not harmed in store.
Such precautions to “limit the physical risk”, can be as straightforward as placing a wet floor sign onto tiles when it’s raining.
In relation to fixtures and fittings, however, liability is more of a “grey area”, as responsibility is dependent on the cause of the accident.
If maintenance is the issue, the retailer may be accountable as they have a duty to ensure that everything in store is kept in safe working order. However, if the fault is a fundamental problem with the fitting, including screws, electrics etc, the manufacturer may be liable.
And the financial costs of liability can be astronomical. If someone has an accident on retail premises and their injuries impede their ability to work and earn a living, damages have been known to reach six or even seven figures.
So what should retailers do to limit the possibility of accountability? It’s “simple” according to Millmore. “Take sensible steps to limit the probability of injury and make sure that you are properly insured.”
Public liability insurance provides cover against claims made by members of the public who have suffered injury or damage to property in connection with the business. It is designed to pay compensation which can include loss of earnings, future loss of earnings and damages awarded to the claimant, in addition to the legal costs of both parties.
Comprehensive liability cover is essential for business owners and occupiers as it protects both the retailer and the consumer when the cost of can be so much more than financial.