Learn about your right to legal protection and compensation when you slip and fall or suffer other injuries at a retail store.
Most retail stores are well-run and provide a safe environment for shoppers. They are supermarkets, clothing stores, beauty salons, gas stations, quickie marts, and a host of other places.
Most store owners do everything they can to make their stores hazard-free and as safe as possible for their customers. Still, customers are injured every day because of unsafe conditions on retail properties.
Slip and falls are one of the most common shopping accidents.
Older customers are particularly vulnerable to serious injury. Millions of seniors are treated annually for slip and fall injuries, often suffering from broken bones or head injuries.¹
If you or a family member have been injured in a retail store, it’s important to know how to protect your right to compensation. This guide can help.
Your Right to Legal Protection in Stores
The law classifies customers as invitees. As an invitee, you’re entitled to safety from undue harm while on store property. You should expect to be safe anywhere on the property, including:
- Parking lots
- Merchandise display areas
- Dressing rooms
- Check-out lanes
- Other places customers use while in the store
To be an invitee doesn’t mean you have to spend money. You might be there to browse, buy, or to return an item. You could be there to apply for a job or speak with the manager.
Customers aren’t the only visitors to retail stores who qualify as invitees. Invitees include contractors, trucks delivering merchandise, wholesalers there to sell merchandise, and anyone else there to conduct legitimate business.
So long as you intend to conduct business when coming onto the store’s property, you’re an invitee and entitled to legal protection.
Your legal protection includes the right to seek compensation for injuries caused by the store owner’s failure to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to others.
Common Causes of Store Injuries
The most common causes of retail store injuries are:
- Liquids spilled onto the floor
- Aisle obstructions
- Faulty staircases, elevators, and escalators
- Merchandise falling from shelves
- Jagged shelves and showcases
- Mechanical door breakdowns
- Insufficient lighting in parking lots
Retail Stores Have a Duty of Care
A duty of care is a legal obligation to avoid causing harm to others. It means retail stores must do everything reasonably possible to ensure their customers are safe from dangerous conditions that might cause injuries.
If the store fails to prevent or correct a dangerous situation, and it causes you to get hurt, the owners and managers are considered negligent.
Negligence is a breach, or violation, of the store owner’s duty of care. That violation makes the retailer liable for his customer’s damages. Damages can include medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses for medicines, lost wages, and the customer’s pain and suffering.
Round-up of legal terms used in injury claims:
Duty of Care means the obligation to be careful and avoid causing harm to others.
Negligence happens when 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.
Proving the Store’s Liability for Your Injuries
Claiming a retail store owner was negligent is one thing. Proving it is an entirely different matter.
While the law demands a legal duty of care from the retailer, it’s up to you, the injured customer, to prove the store owner was to blame for your injuries.
To prove the owner was negligent and liable for your injuries, you’ll need to show:
- A dangerous condition caused your injuries.
- The owner knew of the dangerous condition or should have known.
- The owner failed to eliminate or repair the dangerous condition.
- You didn’t do anything to contribute to your injury.
- The dangerous condition was the cause of your injuries.
- Your injuries and subsequent damages are real.
It doesn’t matter what kind of store you were in or the scope of your injuries. The same steps to proving negligence will apply.
How to Gather Slip and Fall Evidence
Believable evidence is the key to succeeding in your injury claim against a retailer.
Gathering good evidence starts as soon as you’re hurt on a retail store’s property. Here’s how to collect the evidence you need:
Prompt Medical Attention: Ask for medical help or call 911 if the injury is serious enough. Go to your doctor as soon as possible after the accident to document and link your injury to the dangerous condition. Delaying medical attention for your injury can tank your claim.
Incident Report: Ask the store owner or manager to complete a store incident report and give you a copy. The manager may not have the authority to give you a copy but should give a copy to the store’s insurance company.
Insurance Information: Ask for the insurance company’s name and contact information or confirm the company will contact you. Provide your name, address, email, and phone numbers.
Witness Information: Get the names and contact information from employees and customers who witnessed the injury. If you find a sympathetic witness, ask them to write down what they saw. Have them sign and date their written statement.
Photographic Evidence: Take photographs or video of the accident scene, especially the dangerous condition that caused your slip and fall or other injury. If you are unable, ask someone else to help. Continue taking pictures through your treatment and recovery. Pictures of your wounds or images of you in a hospital bed can be compelling evidence of your suffering.
Organize Your Paperwork: Keep all important documentation such as receipts and copies of medical records, medical bills, medicines, verification of lost wages, and copies of any communications with the insurance company.
Example of gathering evidence for a slip and fall claim:
John was shopping in a local store. As he walked down the aisle, he slipped on a liquid substance on the floor. He fell hard to the ground and landed on his side, injuring his hip. He also injured his wrist when he put out his hand to stop his fall. His friend Sam saw him slip and fall.
Call for Help
Sam went up to the store manager and asked him to call 911. When the manager hesitated, Sam dialed from his cell phone.
Sam used his cell phone to photograph the slippery substance on the floor. He helped John slowly get up off the floor and move to a nearby chair. Sam photographed John’s wet and dirty clothes, and the broken bottle of olive oil on the shelf that made it clear there was a dangerous condition.
Another shopper, Sally stopped to help. John asked if she would give him her name and contact information, which she did. Sally also wrote down what she saw. She signed and dated her statement before giving it to John.
Sam asked the manager why someone hadn’t cleaned up the spilled oil before John slipped on it. The manager said he was busy at the register and hadn’t had time to clean up the mess. He said he thought customers would see it and step around it until he had time to clean it up.
Store Incident Report
Sam wrote down what the manager said. He asked the manager to sign his name. Instead, the manager took out a store incident report form and filled it out, recording the date and time of the accident, the witnesses’ names and the victim’s. John asked for a copy. The manager said he would turn the report over to his insurance company.
John asked for the name of the store’s insurance company. The manager said the store owner or the insurance company would contact him.
When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics offered to take John to the emergency room. When he hesitated, Sam reminded him of the importance of documenting his injuries. John agreed to go to the hospital.
At the hospital, John was treated for his injury. He made clear to the admitting nurse and the treating physician that he was injured when he slipped and fell on spilled oil in the store. He wanted to make sure the doctor and nurses noted the cause of his injury in the medical records, along with the time of admission, diagnosis, and prognosis.
John followed up two days later with his physician. He’d suffered a severe contusion in his hip and a sprained wrist. After completing treatment, John asked his doctor to give him a copy of his medical records and bills.
Lost Wage Verification
John had limited mobility and couldn’t work for five days. He asked his employer to give him a letter verifying his lost wages for that period.
John made copies of his admitting chart, the physician’s medical narrative, his hospital bills, and verification of his lost wages. A week later, the store’s insurance company contacted him. The claim adjuster asked him to send copies of his photographs, medical bills, written statements from Sam and Sally, and any other proof of his damages.
John took all the necessary steps to prove the store was negligent and establish the scope of his injuries. The insurance company accepted his injury claim. All that’s left is for John to negotiate the final amount of his settlement with the claims adjuster.
When an Attorney Will Boost Your Payout
Hiring an attorney depends on the extent of your injury. Most injuries suffered at retail stores are minor, soft tissue injuries like bumps, cuts, scrapes, bruises, and sprained tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Injuries that don’t require hospitalization are typically soft tissue injuries.
Soft tissue injuries can usually be settled directly with the insurance company. You can negotiate a fair settlement for soft-tissue injury claims without an attorney.
You can calculate how much your claim is worth by totaling the cost of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and other expenses incurred because of your injury. Add one or two times that amount for your pain and suffering.
Put your demand in writing and enclose copies of your bills, receipts, and other evidence.
We’ve made it easy for you with this sample Retail Store Injury Demand Letter.
Claims for severe, “hard” injuries are a different story. These types of injuries can include head trauma, deep wounds, broken bones, serious neck or back injuries, or other injuries requiring hospitalization or substantial medical expenses. Hard injuries are high-dollar claims.
Insurance companies will make every effort to avoid paying large settlements to badly injured claimants. Claims adjusters and corporate lawyers will try every legal trick in the book to reduce or deny your claim, even arguing that you share the blame for your injuries.
There’s too much at stake for you to face the insurance company on your own. When you’ve been badly injured in a retail store accident, don’t leave your financial future hanging in the balance. It costs nothing to find out what an experienced personal injury attorney can do for you.
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