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QLD Personal Injury at Woolworths

Discussion in 'Personal Injury Law Forum' started by Bronwyn, 17 March 2015.

  1. Bronwyn

    Bronwyn Member

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    I had a very nasty fall in Woolworths 3 weeks ago. I need to know what I can claim under personal injury law as this had made my personal and work life unbearable.
     
  2. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    Hi Bronwyn,
    I assume that you have suffered a personal injury as a result of the fall and the fall did not occur in the course of your employment (if it occurred during your employment, it would be dealt with under the Workers Compensation Scheme).

    Woolies owe you a duty of care to ensure you as an entrant are not exposed to foreseeable risks of injury and if you are, that you are warned of such risks. However, they are only required to take reasonable steps. The simple fact that you incurred an injury within their premises does not automatically give rise to a right to sue. Your first hurdle will therefore be to prove that Woolies owed you a duty and that they have breached that duty by some negligence. What were the circumstances of your fall?

    What you can claim in terms of damages will depend on the nature and severity of your injuries. However generally the damages you will be entitled to include:
    • General damages which compensate you in monetary terms for any pain and suffering you experience, loss of amenities of life, reduced life expectations and/or any disfigurement. General damages are determined by reference to a sliding scale by assigning your injury a value from 0 (negligible injury) to 100 (the most serious injury) based on its severity. These amounts are capped.
    • Reimbursement for your out of pocket expenses (medical etc)
    • Compensation for any earnings you lost as a result of being unable to work.
    Bear in mind you will need to provide proof of all these things, so start keeping records if you intend to make a claim.

    Also bear in mind that strict time limits apply to making a claim - so you need to see a lawyer as soon as possible if you are thinking about making a claim.
     
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  3. procrastinasian

    procrastinasian Well-Known Member

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    I'm sorry to hear about your accident Bronwyn,

    I really like Sophea's answer. She summarized your specific enquiry well. I also agree that you should speak to a lawyer asap if you intend to make a claim. In most cases, you have 3 years from the accident date in Queensland. However, I recommend that you don't think of this limitation period as the only consideration for speaking with a lawyer. There may be time sensitive aspects such as evidence (video, witnesses, etc.) that may be gone if you delay too long.

    My principal also actually approved an article that I wrote regarding some recent court decisions I was fascinated with (because I come from Canada and things are a bit different there.) Please do not consider this as indicative of your own outcome because as Sophea wisely put it, the circumstances of your fall should also be put into consideration. Here is a bit of a short excerpt I chose that you might find interesting. I think it contrasts well with what Sophea was trying to say about the duty of care issue. Please note that the hyperlinks for the news articles I cited might not work because of how this site's coding is, so if you would like specific links, you can just fire me a message and I can send them to you.


    Clients need to understand that it is necessary to prove the threshold requirements to be successful in their claim:
    • They need to prove that the occupier (e.g. supermarket) owed a duty of care to provide a safe environment for their customers;
    • The occupier was negligent by failing to follow that duty of care;
    • The negligence of the occupier is proven to cause injury to another person; and
    • As a result of the injury, the person has (or will in the future) suffer a loss (e.g. medical expenses, lost wages from work, out of pocket expenses, etc.)
    Clients sometimes get apprehensive because they do not understand whether or not they may have a case against the supermarket. With reference to recent cases, our firm will provide a few guidelines to follow to help your claim if you have been injured in an accident:
    • Stores are held to a high duty of care to their customers
    Strong v Woolworths Ltd: In 2012, a woman amputee slipped on a chip near the entrance of a Big W store during their sidewalk sale. She was successful in her claim because the High Court accepted that in order to comply with an occupiers duty of care, checking and removing slipping hazards must occur no less than every 20 minutes.

    Fitzsimmons v Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd: Another case in 2013 involved a woman who slipped on a wet floor despite there being three ‘wet floor’ signs because the staff left to get the necessary tools to clean it properly. The courts held that the supermarket should have stationed staff to warn less attentive customers of the spill because the signs were not at eye-level and could be overlooked by customers shopping.
    • Make sure you file an incident report with the store.
    The most recent case that has hit the news in 2014 involves a woman in the Sunshine Coast who slipped on a grape in Woolworths and is suing the company for $320,000. However, Woolworths is arguing that the incident might never even have happened because it was not reported on that day.

    It is important to inform the staff and have an incident report filed as soon as possible after an accident. Some people may feel this may be unnecessary because they might not feel a lot of pain, may be embarrassed, etc.

    However, they also run the risk of severely affecting their legal rights to compensation if their injuries become worse because of the accident. Unless you are a doctor, it is very hard to determine the full extent of your injuries immediately after they have occurred.

    It is also helpful to get the names of staff or anyone else who are witnesses to the accident.

    This simple step can save a substantial amount of time in legal arguments.

    • Proving a slip & fall accident may be difficult.
    A victim of a slip and fall injury has the responsibility to prove all the elements of a negligence claim on a balance of probabilities.

    Coles Supermarkets Australia Pty Ltd v Meneghello: This was another 2013 case that involved a woman who slipped on two pieces of cardboard at a Coles store. However, she lost in court because it was held that she could not prove direct evidence that her foot was in contact with the cardboard (despite the fact that she saw the cardboard near where she had fallen.) It was also held that in this case, it could not be proven that the cardboard constituted a severe slip hazard.



    I hope that you find this information helpful and easy to read. Please let me know what you think, and also if there are ways I can improve my writing for people like yourself who have enquiries (one of the sad realities of being a law student is that we tend to mix up 'legalese' with our regular conversation.

    You're in my prayers for a quick and speedy recovery :)
     
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  4. Indi

    Indi Member

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    I have a question similar to the above poster. If someone is hit by the trolley of another customer, leading to a fall and injuries, is one entitled to compensation?

    The customer at fault did not stay around to help. It was near the checkout, so likely to be on CCTV?

    The incident was in a supermarket in Queensland. An incident report is done. Injuries were laceration and broken rib on an 86-year-old.

    Thank you
     
  5. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    If there was nothing negligent or wrong done by the supermarket then no, you cannot claim compensation from them. The only way i can think of that you may be able to claim fault was if the trolley was faulty and hit another customer because it collapsed or if this person regularly came to the supermarket and assaulted other customers with his trolley and the supermarket failed to institute policies to refuse him entry.

    In the absence of negligence there is no right to compensation.

    The person who committed a wrong was the person who hit you. You may be technically able to sue them for assault or trespass to person, however individuals generally don't carry insurance and it may not be worth your while.
     
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  6. nis

    nis Active Member

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    Hi Sophea,

    My sister had a slip in 2013 at a Woolworths store in NSW where she repeated it immediately and we were told by a staff member that the leaking fridge had been broken for weeks and there were no wet floor sign erected, etc.

    She has just had conference with them they have accepted liability but are claiming she already had damage to her back. She had damage to her right leg already but the slip caused damage to her left leg and back, leaving her unable to work as a cleaner. She is represented by a law firm who is in financial strife at the moment and they are telling her to accept 100, 000 which is what Woolworths offered and the firm wants 8.

    80, 000 in legal fees.

    She has been on a Methodone program for pain for a year prior to the slip. Her barrister told her she was an ex heroin addict and that she was obese and that she already had back pain prior to the fall. She is currently speaking with her doctors to rectify all of these statements as all of the above are untrue and she has proof of this in her medical history.

    Her solicitor has called her this morning as she said she would push Woolworths for 160, 000, obviously so they can get the 80, 000 they want in legal fees.

    I have requested a full break down of these fees as the solicitor stated that she has contact with my sister once a week for the duration of the claim, which is simply not true.

    Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated as she has 3 children, has an obvious permanent injury and a solicitor who I feel is only after the exorbiant legal fees and not having her best interest at heart.

    It's worth mentioning to in the costs agreement it said for the 1st stage 13, 000 dollars and 35, 000 up until trial. They are at the first stage up until the conference yesterday so I don't know how they are charging 80000 dollars!!

    Thank you for reading. I welcome your reply.
     
  7. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    Hi nis,

    If you have genuine concerns about the solicitors representing your sister, I would contact the Legal Services Commissioner. Keep notes of all of your sisters contacts and attendances with her solicitors so that she can confirm or deny any attendances that are itemised on her bills.

    The largest components of damages for personal injuries come from future economic loss - which will represent the difference between how much earning income capacity she had before the incident and what she is anticipated to have now. So any evidence to that effect will be valuable to your case.

    Pre-existing injuries can limit your damages, however Woolworth's insurers will be trying to play that up as much as they can to reduce the amount they pay out. Changing lawyers at this stage could cost you even more in legal fees. I would however dispute any fees for attendances that are not correct with your current solicitors and drive them to push for the highest settlement possible.

    Is it a no win no fee agreement?
     
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  8. nis

    nis Active Member

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    Thanks so much, Sophea.

    Yes it is a no win, no fee solicitor. I have arranged to speak with the solicitor today.

    She said she would call and did not. My sister has raised the overcharging and asked for an itemised bill, which was met with rudeness from the solicitor.

    Do you have phone contact with forum users?
     
  9. nis

    nis Active Member

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    Hi Sophea, thank you for your swift reply. It is very much appreciated.

    Yes it is a no win no fee. She has worked after both injuries and then had to stop due to the injuries from the slip at Woolys. Do you give phone advice?
     
    #9 nis, 14 February 2017
    Last edited by a moderator: 14 February 2017
  10. Sophea

    Sophea Well-Known Member

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    If its no win no fee, then your agreement with them should set out the circumstances that constitute a ‘successful outcome’ of the matter. If that includes a settlement, then you should be able to push them pretty hard to settle high. You will generally be better off settling rather than going to trial having regard to the costs involved. ;)
     
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