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Occupiers Liability Claims

Occupiers are those who control privately-owned premises and land and can be individuals, businesses or other organisations. As an occupier, you have a legal obligation to ensure that those who visit your premises are safe, and this duty of care even extends to trespassers. To ensure that your property is safe, you are required to carry out risk assessments on a regular basis and eliminate or minimise any hazards that you find. Any risks that are found during an assessment must be addressed and removed as quickly as possible, as if an accident occurs or an injury is sustained because of breaches of your legal duty, a claim for compensation may be brought against you.

The following article explains occupiers liability claims, including the types of incidents that would warrant a claim, the legal obligations of occupiers and the legislation that is relevant to this area.

The Law Relating to Occupiers Liability Claims

The law relating to occupiers liability claims is very clear and is set out in the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. This legislation details that all lawful visitors to a property have a legal right to expect a safe environment. This means that the law protects all people who are invited to your premises or who have access to the property.

The law also affords unlawful visitors protection, and this includes trespassers whether they recognise themselves to be trespassing or not.

Who is eligible to make an occupier’s liability claim?

A person who sustains an injury in any place that is the responsibility of the occupier may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. This means that premises such as shops, pubs, restaurants, local authority buildings, playgrounds, offices, and schools are all covered by the law and can be held accountable for accidents caused by their negligence.

To make a successful claim for compensation, a solicitor will need to prove that the liability lies with the occupier and that they breached their legal duty of care to the claimant. It must also be proven that this breach resulted in an injury. It may still be possible to claim compensation if there is a shared burden of liability through a split liability agreement, which a solicitor will guide their client through.

Children and Occupiers Liability Claims

The law acknowledges that children are at a greater risk of sustaining an injury in all areas because they are less able to recognise potential risks when compared to adults. As a result, children cannot be expected to act with the same level of caution. With this in mind, if you are an occupier of a premises that welcomes children, you are expected to abide by a higher level of responsibility and take appropriate measures to recognise and address the additional hazards that are presented to children.

Trespassers and Occupiers Liability Claims

As set out in the Occupiers Liability Act, the protection of the law extends to trespassers who sustain an injury whilst on the premises of the occupier. Trespassers, whether they recognise that they are trespassing or not, are entitled to make a claim for compensation if they suffer an injury because the property is not maintained to an acceptable level of safety.

In order for a trespasser’s claim to be successful, the claimant must prove that:

  • The occupier was aware of the risk or danger, or could be reasonably expected to have known
  • The occupier should have acknowledged that visitors or trespassers could be in harm
  • The occupier should have taken appropriate steps to remove or minimise the risk of possible injury

Is there a time limit for beginning an occupier’s liability claim?

The usual time limit for initiating an occupier’s liability claim is three years from the date of the accident. As such, solicitors encourage claimants to initiate their case as quickly as possible following the injury in order to access relevant evidence and to meet the time restrictions in place.

If the injuries sustained in the accident are not immediately apparent, the three year time limit begins from the time at which the claimant becomes aware or can reasonably expect to have been aware of their injuries.