Petrol Station Fall Leads To Compensation Claim


The Law Of... slipping on garage forecourts

The combination of flammable liquids and moving vehicles makes a garage forecourt a place for vigilance at the best of times, so you might not expect to encounter additional hazards when filling up at the pump.

Split diesel oil provides a variety of hazards

Petrol stations have a duty of care to their customers to ensure they remain safe while on the premises, but what happens when they don't fulfil this duty?

Spilt Fuel Injures Motorist

Unfortunately, this duty of care failed in the case of Mr R from Margate, who, while visiting a BP station to refuel, slipped on spilt diesel, injuring both his back and knee.

The spillage had been partially covered with sand, a standard procedure for absorbing and cleaning up small scale fuel hazards, but as Mr R climbed from his vehicle, unaware of the danger at his feet, he stepped into a partially uncovered area of the diesel slick. This caused him to lose his footing, which jarred his back and twisted his knee, resulting in soft tissue damage to both.

Jonathan Thursby, a Personal Injury Solicitor with Simpson Millar, handled Mr R's resulting claim for compensation.

What Does the Law Say?

Under Section 2 (2) of the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957, the occupier of premises has a "common duty of care [...] to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using premises for the purposes for which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there."

In Mr R's case, this meant that as a customer and 'visitor' to the petrol station, its owners, as occupiers, owed a duty of care to ensure he remained reasonably safe for the duration of the time he was there.

Failing to Safeguard the Customer

When approached, the owners of the garage's BP franchise argued that by placing sand on the spillage – in line with their own system of inspection – they had taken the necessary steps required to ensure Mr R's safety, thus discharging their responsibilities under the relevant Act.

Further to this they alleged that Mr R had been the one at fault, failing to exit his car safely, failing to place his feet with due care and failing to take proper responsibility for his own safety.

However, the owners of the petrol station were breaching their duty of care by not:

  • Ensuring the entirety of the spillage was covered with sand
  • Effectively cleaning the slip hazard up
  • Warning Mr R that spilt diesel was present
  • Cordoning off the spillage until the hazard was removed

Making a Personal Injury Claim

If an occupier of premises (whether they be business premises or not) has neglected their responsibility in ensuring your safety and an accident occurs because of this, then you may be able to make a claim for compensation.

With personal injury claims there is a 3 year deadline in which to bring an action against the party responsible.

This time limit is either from when the accident took place or from when you first discovered your injury was related to it. Making a claim sooner rather than later is always recommended, to ensure the incident is fresh in the minds of any witnesses that might be called upon.

The Outcome of Mr R's Claim

In this instance, the owners of the petrol station continued to deny any liability for Mr R's slip and subsequent injuries, resulting in court proceedings being issued. With 7 days to go until trial, the defendants capitulated and an award for Mr R's damages was successfully negotiated.

Jonathan Thursby says:

"The injuries to Mr R were bad enough, but under different circumstances things could have been a whole lot worse. Fuel spillages are not only a slip hazard, but also a fire risk. Worst case scenario might've seen the diesel ignite, which could have led to fatalities."

"This underlines the fact that proper systems need to be in place to deal with such events, ensuring that spillages are cleaned up effectively and the affected areas are cordoned off until they are once again safe for public use."

Commenting on the service he received, Mr R said:

"Simpson Millar were very professional in every respect."

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