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Nightclubs have a duty of care but revellers need to show common sense

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 20, 2013

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A night out should be about unwinding and having fun but Alan Scott-Davies, senior legal claims advisor at South West personal injury solicitors Harris Fowler, says that there are safety risks.

I've noticed how often the names of local nightclubs change and it made me think that if every new owner's aim is to improve the experience for its guests why are there still so many accidents in nightclubs?

In 1981 a total of 48 people died in a fire at the Stardust nightclub in Dublin. In 2011, a 22-year-old student was crushed to death in a stampede when a nightclub in Northampton sold 700 more tickets than its 1,300 capacity. The fire at the Kiss nightclub in January 2013 in Brazil killed more than 200 people and there are numerous examples of serious injuries suffered at nightclubs by partygoers who are assaulted, fall onto broken glass or slip on dance floors covered in spilled liquid.

The number of people sustaining injuries, and making a claim for compensation, is worrying and many of these injuries could be avoided. Health and safety conscious nightclubs have a 'no drinks on the dance floor' policy but many of those injured say that they either weren't aware of the policy, because there were no signs displayed, or that even where signs were clearly displayed the policy wasn't enforced by the staff.

The most common types of injury are leg and wrist fractures, following a slip on a wet dance floor, or serious cuts where someone has fallen and landed on a drinks glass.

There is a tendency for partygoers to take their drinks onto the dance floor rather than risk leaving them unattended for fear of them being spiked. An understandable attitude of course but preventing one creates the other and a different approach is needed.

Nightclubs, like all public premises, owe their guests a duty of care to allow them to enjoy the benefits of the premises without being injured. They are also legally obliged to take reasonable steps to prevent accidents and this is particularly the case when guests have paid an entrance fee. Nightclubs are, by their nature, normally dimly lit, noisy with flashing lights and very often overcrowded. Carrying out regular inspections of obvious hazard areas, like the dance floor, is therefore very difficult but a failure to do so is far more costly than having a good prevention policy enforced in the first place.

If you are unfortunate enough to have an accident in a nightclub make sure that it is reported to the staff and that an accident record is completed. If possible take photographs of where the accident occurred, take photographs of your injuries, and details of any potential witnesses to the accident who might be able to help at a later date.

Doing all this will probably be the last thing on your mind if you've just sustained a nasty injury and it's not always possible at the time. However, an accurate chronology of events, taking photographs, and getting the names of any witnesses are crucial because when you're sitting at home and unable to work for six months these things will suddenly become very important. Partygoers need to take some responsibility for their own safety of course and staying safe requires self-preservation, a little common sense, and a sensible approach to drinking.

Harris Fowler has a team of specialist personal injury solicitors who can offer advice to anyone who suffers a personal injury whilst on someone else's property. Free and confidential legal advice is available on 0800 213 214 or visit www.harrisfowler.co.uk. Harris Fowler is a trading name of Harris Fowler Limited and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority no. 558271.

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