Can I Be Sued By A Delivery Driver?
The Law Of… providing safe access
When you book an online shop for delivery, the last thing you might expect is to find yourself getting sued, but that's exactly what happened to one man who ended up on the receiving end of an ASDA delivery driver's personal injury claim.
Dawn Rose, a Personal Injury Solicitor at Simpson Millar, shines a light on this particular case and discusses your responsibilities, as a householder, with regards to your property and safe access.
ASDA Driver Sues Customer
The case in question concerns a Brian Thompson of Newcastle and an unnamed delivery driver. After placing his order online, Mr Thompson took receipt of it as normal, with nothing being said at the time and no incident, known to him, having occurred.
Thinking nothing more of it, it came as something of a surprise when, a couple of weeks later, he received a solicitor's letter sent on behalf of the driver, claiming their client had come to harm while making the delivery, injuring his left thumb and sustaining a possible scaphoid fracture to his wrist. The letter asked for Mr Thompson's insurance details, warning of a pre-action disclosure – a court application for an order to disclose documents – if he failed to provide them.
Despite his approaches to ASDA for assistance in resolving the matter, the Walmart-owned retail giant has offered little in the way of support.
So where do you – and Brian Thompson – stand if somebody injures themselves on your premises?
What Are My Legal Responsibilities As A Property Owner?
As a property owner you owe a 'common duty of care' to all your visitors in accordance with the Occupiers' Liability Act 1957.
This states that:
'… [a] visitor will be reasonably safe in using the premises for the purposes which he is invited or permitted by the occupier to be there.'
Put simply, this means that you are responsible for maintaining a safe level of access to both the inside and outside of your property for the purpose of deliveries and work that is carried out thereon. This responsibility also applies to any guests (friends, family, etc.) you may be hosting to ensure they come to no harm within the legal boundaries of your home.
The common duty of care stretches to properties that you own but may not live in, as demonstrated in a case where a postal worker was injured on the footpath of an unoccupied house.
Can A Delivery Driver Sue Me For An Injury They Received On My Property?
If the injury was sustained either inside or along the access point to your property and it can be proven that this was both the case and that the injury was a direct result of you breaching your common duty of care, then there is strong grounds for a claim.
There have been similar cases to that of Mr Thompson's over the years, including a Sainsbury's delivery driver who sued a couple for soft tissue damage and a Tesco driver who sued another homeowner over an accident on a sloping driveway.
I Am A Landlord; Could A Delivery Driver Sue Me For An Injury Received On My Property?
There is similar legislation for landlords, covered by the Defective Premises Act 1972, stating:
'… the landlord owes to all persons who might reasonably be expected to be affected by defects in the state of the premises a duty to take such care as is reasonable [to see that they are safe] from personal injury […] caused by a relevant defect.'
Meaning if you are a landlord, you have a duty to ensure the property and access is kept in a good state of repair for both the tenant(s) and any visitors, including tradesmen and delivery drivers.
What Can I Do To Avoid Getting Sued By A Delivery Driver Or Other Tradesman?
The best way to avoid a personal injury claim from a delivery driver or another tradesman is to ensure your property is maintained effectively and that all pathways, drives etc. are kept clear and in a reasonable condition.
You should also make sure your household insurance is kept up to date and includes public liability cover, so that if you do find yourself on the receiving end of such a claim, you won't have to foot the bill for a hefty settlement.
"We will have to wait and see what the outcome of this particular case is, but whether it is the householder's fault or not, generally speaking, a worker has the right to go about their duties without risk of accident or injury."
"This is the case for employees in the workplace, where there is strict legislation to ensure that standards are maintained and the possibility of anybody coming to harm is reduced, so a similar standard should apply if their job means they have to access other people's property. I'm afraid an excuse of 'it's my property, I'll do what I like with it', isn't good enough when a person's safety is at risk."