LEGAL EAGLE: Was anyone at fault for fall?

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My friend was injured a couple of months ago when he fell over in a pub. He hadn’t been drinking any alcohol and he got a bad injury – he put out his hand to save himself falling and broke his arm. And yet although the pub has insurance he has been advised by a solicitor he cannot get any compensation from the pub for his injuries. I don’t understand why this is so. Surely the insurance should pay?

It is often thought that if there is an insurance policy in place people should get compensation when they get hurt. But it is not as simple as that.

To get compensation you have to show that the compensator had a duty of care towards you and that the duty was breached and that you suffered your injury as a result of that breach of duty.

You need also to show that it was foreseeable that the sort of injury you suffered was likely to occur if the duty of care towards you was breached.

So in the case of your friend’s pub accident: if he fell (for example) because a part of a floorboard at the pub was broken and he caught his foot in a hole caused by that then he might well have a good case to be compensated. Because obviously pubs have a duty of care towards customers visiting their premises to provide safe flooring and equally as obviously such customers do not expect to have to negotiate broken floorboards.

Breaking your arm due to falling over as a result of a broken floorboard is a very foreseeable result of coming unstuck due to the hazard caused by the defective floorboard.

On the other hand if your friend fell over for no particular reason then there would be no case.

In personal injury cases often the position can be summarised by asking the question: was somebody else at fault in causing your accident? Because very often if so it will turn out on further investigation that whoever was at fault did have a duty of care did breach it and is therefore responsible for injury and other damage caused by the accident that followed.

In the case of a pub the public liability insurance policy in place to do with covering falls would operate as above – the insurers would ask the crucial question: was anyone at the pub we insure at fault for this accident? Only if the answer was “yes” would the insurance company look further into the case.