How to prove the store’s liability and get full compensation for injuries suffered in a retail clothing or department store.
Each day, thousands of people shop in clothing stores across the country. During the busiest time of year, the days following Thanksgiving, more than 164 million shoppers will visit retail stores of every kind.¹
With all those shoppers, accidents are bound to happen.
If you’ve been injured from slip-and-fall or other type of accident in a clothing store, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress.
You might visit an independent clothing store occasionally, but these days you’re more likely to shop in a national chain clothing store.
The good news is that chain stores will likely carry liability insurance with enough coverage to pay your claim.
The bad news is that chain stores will have a team of corporate adjusters and lawyers who are only interested in getting rid of you for as little money as possible.
You’ll need to know how to make a valid injury claim, where to get the evidence you need to prove the store was to blame for your injuries, and how to maximize your compensation.
Clothing Store Hazards and Injuries
Most business owners take pride in offering popular clothes and accessories in a clean, attractive and safe retail store. Clothing store owners and operators are required to take reasonable care to prevent injuries to customers.
The sad truth is that sometimes clothing and department store employees are careless. Their carelessness can result in injuries to customers like you.
Common causes of store injuries include:
- Aisle obstructions, like boxes and cords
- Exposed pins, needles, and sharp trim on clothing
- Jagged counter tops
- Falling merchandise from over-stacked shelves
- Unstable clothing racks
- Uneven, damaged, and slippery floors
- Defective staircases, elevators, and escalators
Common injuries to customers include:
- Cuts, scratches, and puncture wounds
- Infections from cuts and punctures made by dirty pins or other sharp objects
- Broken bones
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries
- Back injuries including herniated or ruptured disks
- Soft tissue injuries like bruises, sprains, and strains
Proving the Store Caused Your Injuries
No matter how badly you’re hurt, the store’s insurance company won’t part with a dime unless you can prove the store was at fault for your injuries. What you say and do from the moment you’re injured will have a huge impact on your claim.
It helps to understand some terms used by lawyers and insurance companies:
Duty of Care means the obligation to be careful and avoid causing harm to others.
Negligence happens when a someone fails to act responsibly or does something no reasonable person would do.
Liability means responsibility. The at-fault person is usually liable for the injured victim’s damages.
Damages for personal injuries include medical costs, the cost of ruined clothing or other personal items, out-of-pocket medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Remember three important things if you’re injured in a store:
1. Report the accident: Stay in the store and ask for the manager. People are often embarrassed when they slip and fall or when a rack of clothes tips over on them.
Don’t assume you’re not injured. The rush of adrenaline you get from surprise and distress can mask pain and other symptoms. Even serious injuries, like a concussion, may not show symptoms until hours later.
If you leave before reporting the accident, later you’ll have a very difficult time proving you were hurt at the store. Get the full name and title of the store employee who took your information. Let them know you want a copy of the store’s incident report.
2. Watch what you say: This is a big one. Never make excuses for your injury or make any statements the insurance company can and will use against you. No matter how nice the store manager is treating you, you can ruin your claim by saying the wrong thing.
When asked if you’re okay, you can always respond that you don’t know. Avoid statements like:
- “I’m so clumsy.”
- “I should have watched where I was going.”
- “That was stupid of me.”
- “I’m fine, just a little shaken up.”
3. Get medical treatment: Never refuse medical attention at the scene. Let the store call 911. If you aren’t transported directly to the hospital, you must seek medical care as soon as possible, preferably the same day. You can see your private doctor, go to the emergency department, or visit an urgent care center.
Wherever you’re treated, make sure you tell them when, where, and how you were injured.
Refusing or delaying medical treatment can destroy your claim. The insurance company won’t hesitate to argue that your injuries didn’t happen at the store.
Your treatment records will link your injury to the store, but you’ll still have to prove the store was to blame for the circumstances that led to your injuries. To prove fault, you’ll need good evidence.
Evidence is Critical for a Strong Claim
Saying a clothing store is liable for your injuries is one thing. Proving it is another.
You’ll need evidence to show:
- A hazardous condition at the store caused your injuries
- The clothing store management knew, or should have known, about the hazard
- Store management failed to prevent or remove the hazard
- The hazard caused your injuries
- You didn’t do anything to cause your injury
The stronger the evidence, the stronger your injury claim.
Your notes and records: As soon as you’re able, write down exactly what happened to cause your injuries. Write down the names, job titles, and contact information of store employees you spoke with, and anyone you talk to from the corporate office or insurance company.
Keep detailed notes and records, including the dates of every communication. Save copies of every letter, email, or other correspondence.
Photographic evidence: Use your cell phone or another device to capture helpful photographs and videos of the accident scene.
For example, if you turned a corner and tripped over some boxes left in the aisle, a photograph of the boxes in the aisle proves they were there. You can bet someone will remove those same boxes shortly after you report your accident.
Insurance information: Ask the manager to give you the name and contact information for the store’s insurance company. If the manager doesn’t have that information, ask for the phone number and address of the store’s administrative offices, where you can make a report and ask about insurance information.
Witnesses: If you’re shopping with a friend or family member, they can serve as an eyewitness. Good Samaritans who stopped to help are stronger witnesses than friends or family members. They have no personal stake in the outcome, so their testimony is unbiased.
Store employees can make the best eyewitnesses on your behalf. They not only don’t have a stake in the outcome, but they may make admissions that help prove the store’s liability.
For example, in the shoe section of a clothing store, an employee may have previously told the manager other employees were leaving empty shoe boxes in the aisle. The employee’s witness statement would work against the store and in your favor if you were injured by tripping over the boxes.
Surveillance cameras: Most retail stores maintain surveillance cameras in every area of the store other than inside restrooms and changing rooms. The primary purpose of the cameras is to protect the stores from theft and from unscrupulous people who fake injuries to collect insurance.
Those same cameras accurately record legitimate accidents and the hazards that caused them. The store’s insurance company can view the surveillance videos, which your lawyer can later subpoena if the store denies liability.
Proving your damages: The store’s insurance company will need copies of your medical records related to the accident, including medical and therapy bills, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, and verification of lost wages.
Always keep the originals in your file. You, or your attorney, will provide copies to the insurance company. Keep a diary of your treatments, pain levels, and your inability to perform tasks of daily living. Your diary can help support your claim for pain and suffering.
Example of facial injuries in a clothing store:
Avery took her 13-year-old daughter Amy to a clothing store at the local mall. Amy went into a dressing room to try on a dress while her mother waited just outside.
A few seconds later, Avery and several employees heard cries coming from Amy’s dressing room area. As they opened the curtain, they saw blood streaming from her forehead, across her eye, and onto her cheek.
Amy was in obvious distress. Avery and the employees could see blood on the dress Amy had just pulled down over her face. Upon closer examination, they saw there was a long, bloody pin jutting out from the top of the dress.
Reporting the Accident
Avery and the employees quickly figured out when Amy pulled the dress over her head, one of the pins meant to hold the tags on the dress had come loose and cut Amy’s face. The cut looked to be about three inches long. Amy was bleeding profusely. Avery called the manager, and then she called 911.
Employee Witness Testimony
While waiting for help to arrive, one of the employees blurted out: “I’m so sorry. This has happened before. Sometimes when people try on clothes, the pins come out. The manager told us to check the clothes before we put them back on the rack. Someone must have overlooked that dress.”
Avery wrote down the employee’s name, and what they said.
While waiting for paramedics, Avery took out her cell phone and photographed Amy’s face, the dress, and the pin with blood still on it.
Avery then asked the manager for his name and asked him to make a written incident report of what happened. The manager provided the name and contact information for the store’s insurance company.
Prompt Medical Evaluation
The emergency room doctor treated Amy. Fortunately, she didn’t require stitches. After receiving a tetanus shot and a prescription for antibiotics, Amy left for home with her mother. The emergency room doctor recommended Amy see a plastic surgeon as soon as possible to evaluate her for potential facial scarring.
Soon after, the plastic surgeon told Amy she probably wouldn’t be permanently scarred, but she would have to wear a bandage for several weeks.
Filing the Claim
Amy’s emergency room treatment and plastic surgeon evaluation costs amounted to $3,000. Future doctor’s visits and medicines were approximately another $1,000. Amy missed several days of school and was mortified to be seen with the bandages on her face. She often cried from embarrassment.
To care for Amy and take her to doctor appointments, Avery missed many days from work over the course of several weeks, costing her $2,000 in lost wages.
Avery hired a personal injury attorney to represent her daughter. The attorney filed a claim with the store’s insurance company on Amy’s behalf. The claim was strong, supported by evidence that the store was negligent for allowing a loose pin to stick out in the dress. Amy’s attorney showed the store knew about the pin problem and failed to correct the hazard.
Amy’s claim sought compensation totaling $20,000 to cover the costs of Amy’s medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses for Amy’s medications, Avery’s lost wages, and an amount for Amy’s significant emotional distress.
After intense negotiations, the claim settled. After medical bills and attorney fees, the remaining compensation was put into an interest-bearing trust account that would be available to Amy when she turned eighteen.
Protect Your Right to Compensation
Most clothing store injuries are soft tissue injuries like minor cuts, scratches, bumps, bruises, and sprains. If you’re fully recovered from relatively minor injuries, you should be able to negotiate a fair settlement without an attorney.
Figure out a fair settlement amount by totaling the cost of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for your pain and suffering.
Send a demand letter to the insurance company with copies of your bills, receipts, and other evidence.
Look like a pro with this sample Store Injury Claim Demand Letter.
Hard injury claims for serious injuries like a broken hip, head trauma, severe back injuries, or other injuries requiring surgery or extensive medical care are a completely different story. Hard injuries are high-dollar claims.
The insurance company will fight you every step of the way to avoid paying a large settlement. They don’t care how badly you or a loved one have been injured.
Don’t risk your family’s financial future when it comes to high-dollar injury claims. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a clothing store, protect your right to full compensation.
You don’t have to fight the insurance company on your own. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what a good personal injury attorney can do for you.
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