Mom fell into unloading equipment...
(Fort Mill, SC)
Today my mom was shopping at a local grocery store and went over to the refrigerated section to pick up some orange juice. In order to get to the fridge, she had to maneuver her way around a large piece of equipment that is used to unload shipments off of trucks.
She lost her footing and fell backwards into the steel compartment of the equipment and could not get out. She laid there stuck until a couple of customers helped her out. The manager then had my mother walk to the office where I'm assuming an accident claim was filed; we'll find out for sure soon.
My mother ended up having to call an ambulance because her injuries prohibited her from standing up and walking correctly. At the ER, she was said to have a serious concussion and increased damage to her sciatic nerve. Is the store or delivery company liable for her injuries? Can she file a lawsuit against these companies for negligence? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Mom fell into unloading equipment...":
Alyson (Fort Mill, SC):
From the facts you present, the grocery store is clearly liable for your mother's slip and fall injuries and resulting damages. Damages can include your medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses (for medications, crutches, slings, etc.), lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Businesses have a legal duty to to take reasonable care to make their premises safe for customers and other persons who are legally upon the property. This is referred to as premises liability.
In this case, it appears the grocery store breached its duty of care to your mother. That breach is referred to as the store’s negligence.
Primary factors to consider in determining whether the grocery store’s conduct lacked reasonable care include: the foreseeable likelihood that the grocery store’s conduct would result in harm, the foreseeable severity of any harm that may ensue, and the burden of precautions to eliminate or reduce the risk of harm.
It can be argued the grocery store knew, or should have known leaving the piece of equipment alone in the path of your mother could result in injuries. Therefore it was "foreseeable" the placement of the equipment could result in injuries.
The next issue deals with the "increased damage" to your mother's sciatic nerve. Your phrasing implies your mother had previous damage to her sciatic nerve. Pre-existing injuries can make it quite difficult to prove the event causing the injury was the direct and proximate cause of the victim's injuries.
"Direct and proximate cause" refers to an unbroken chain of events which results in property damage or personal injury.
The grocery store likely created an incident report at the time of your mother’s injury. While the store does not have a legal duty to give your mother a copy of the incident report, your mother should ask. It's always possible they may cooperate.
You mention there were other customers who came to your mother’s assistance. Hopefully your mother secured their names and contact information. If so, she can ask them to write down what they saw.
It may not be necessary to file a lawsuit. Contact the grocery store and ask for their insurance contact information. If they won’t give it to you, ask that their insurance company contact your mother. If the grocery store cooperates, the insurance company may agree to pay your mother’s medical bills and resulting damages, without the need for a lawsuit.
In the event the insurance company does not cooperate, then your mother can consider retaining a personal injury attorney and filing a lawsuit.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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