I Fell and Was Injured in The Grocery Store Due to A Wet Floor. Is the Employee or The Store Liable?
On average, American shoppers go to the grocery store 1.6 times per week. While this is a necessary trip, it can also be a dangerous one. Spilled liquids, leaking freezers, roof leaks and mopped floors that weren’t properly dried can all present hazards. If you slip and fall while doing your weekly grocery run, you may suffer an injury. Slippery floors are among the most common causes of injuries in supermarkets and grocery stores.
If you’re lucky, you may only suffer a slight bump or bruise. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in five falls leads to a serious injury like head trauma or broken bones and falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries. Older shoppers are especially vulnerable to severe injuries when they fall. Notably, in 2016, an 85-year-old man in Portland, Oregon was awarded $1.6 million in a Safeway slip and fall case.
Whether the accident occurred at a small corner store or a big-name chain, you may be wondering who can be held responsible. Commercial enterprises are required to warn customers about dangerous conditions. If you see that familiar yellow “wet floor” sign at the store, you should take heed. However, even if there was a sign you can still seek compensation if you get injured. You may be able to recover damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses.
Generally, you would need to go after the supermarket and not an individual employee. Businesses have insurance to cover premises liability issues, but individuals don’t. Even if a grocery store worker spilled a liquid and didn’t clean it up, they may not have the financial ability to provide you with any compensation.
Considerations in a Grocery Store Slip and Fall Accident
Premises liability laws vary from one jurisdiction to another. However, each state and the District of Columbia has laws that apply to supermarkets and grocery stores. Regardless of where you live, your local grocery store has a duty to you and other customers. The property must be made safe for customers. This means managers and employees must take reasonable steps to identify hazards like spills and either warn customers or remedy the situation.
If the floor was wet and you got injured, the question would be whether employees took reasonable steps to address the dangerous condition. The circumstances of the incident matter greatly. If a shopper spilled a bottle of detergent and you passed by ten seconds later and slipped, the store may not have had a reasonable time to clean it up. However, if the puddle remained on the floor for an hour and no corrective action was taken, the store may be liable for your injuries.
Proving the Grocery Store’s Liability
It may not be easy to get compensation from the grocery store’s insurance company. You will need to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer to build a strong case. While stores have a duty of care towards their customers, they can’t be held responsible for every injury. They only have to prevent harm that’s reasonably foreseeable. This means the hazard must be one that the owner, manager or employee should expect and could correct or prevent. In addition to proving that the grocery store had an obligation towards you, you also need to prove that someone acted negligently.
That’s not all. A key aspect of your personal injury claim will be proving that you suffered injuries when you fell. You can only claim damages for losses you actually suffered. You may be embarrassed if you slip and fall in a packed grocery store but if you weren’t hurt, you can’t recover compensation. The more serious your injuries are, the more likely it is that the insurance company will try to avoid paying you what you ask for. If you can’t prove that the store’s negligence caused your injuries, you won’t be able to get compensation. Your attorney will help you to build a strong case.
How to Build a Strong Slip and Fall Injury Claim
What you do immediately after you fall is crucial. You may be tempted to get up and leave quickly out of embarrassment. However, even if you’re not thinking about filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit at that moment, you need to protect your right to do so. In the hours or days after your accident, you may discover that your injuries are more serious than you thought at first. If you failed to take the right steps initially, you may find it difficult to get compensation then. Let’s look at some of the things you need to do.
- Ask for the manager. If you fall and you don’t think you can get up, ask someone to call the manager. It is important for them to see the circumstances under which you fell. If you slipped because water was leaking from the roof, the manager should look at where you fell and see the leak.
- Request a copy of the incident report. Most chain stores and large supermarkets require managers to file an incident report with their corporate headquarters. This includes the date and time of the accident and what caused it. The manager may tell you the report is only for internal use. However, your attorney can subpoena the store’s records if you need to file a lawsuit.
- Get medical attention. If you believe your injuries are serious, ask the manager to call 911. That way, the paramedics will treat you and take you to the hospital if necessary. If you’d rather go to your usual physician or an urgent care facility, you should do so as soon as possible. Be sure to provide the doctor with details about how you got injured. Their report can be used as evidence to support your claim for compensation.
- Find eyewitnesses. There are usually lots of people in a grocery store so it’s likely that someone saw you fall. While your relatives or friends can be good witnesses, it’s better if you can find people who are impartial. Not everyone will want to get involved but you should still try to get someone’s name and number. Maybe they saw an employee walk by the hazard without addressing it or they noticed when another customer almost fell in the same area.
- Take photos and video of the scene. It’s important to capture the scene of your slip and fall before anything changes. As soon as you fall, a worker is likely to come and dry the area or cordon it off. Therefore, you should take as many images as possible from as many angles as you can. This can help to strengthen your case.
- Look around for security cameras. Most supermarkets, especially larger ones, have cameras around the store. Ask the manager to show you the footage from the area where you slipped and fell. If you’re lucky, the cameras will capture exactly what happened. The manager may decline to show you the footage, but your attorney may be able to get it.
- Get the name of the store’s insurance company. Ask the manager for the name of the grocery store’s insurance company. If they don’t want to give you this, get the contact details for the corporate office, if it’s a chain, or the owner, in the case of smaller stores.
- Collect copies of your medical records and bills. Be sure to keep any evidence of your injuries and what you spend on doctor’s visits, medicine, and traveling to appointments. You may be able to recover all these expenses. Your medical records will be very important to your case and your right to access them is covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Request a statement of lost wages from your employer. If you had to miss work because of your injuries, this means you lost out on wages. Ask your employer to set out how much you lost including missed opportunities for overtime. You should also ask for confirmation of much sick leave or vacation time you had to use while recovering.
Get an Experienced Lawyer to Help You with Your Case
Slip and fall accidents can result in serious injuries. If you were hurt at a grocery store, you deserve to get compensation. As you can see, a lot goes into preparing a successful claim. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. A personal injury lawyer in your state can help you to build a strong claim for damages.