Shopping Mall Injuries and Accident Claims: How to Get Fair Compensation

Who pays when you’re hurt at the mall? Here’s what you need to know about filing an insurance claim for common shopping mall injuries like slip and falls.

American shoppers have access to nearly 47,000 shopping centers throughout the country. Of those, around 1,100 are enclosed shopping malls.¹

Most shopping centers are owned by corporations who profit by leasing spaces to individual stores, from pretzel shops, jewelry stores, and clothing retailers, to huge chain department stores.

The stores are responsible for keeping their business area clean and safe for customers.

Corporate property owners are responsible for the common areas like parking lots, walkways, restrooms, elevators and escalators. Owners of shopping centers are obligated to ensure the safety of visitors from the moment they enter the parking lot.

It’s expensive to keep up with the maintenance, repairs and security needs of a large shopping center. The hard facts are that shopping malls are losing money. Big retailers are pulling out, stores are closing, and many malls have fallen into neglect. Experts predict one out of four malls will be closed by 2020.²

Did you slip on a wet floor? Trip on a crumbling sidewalk? Fall from a faulty escalator?

If you’re injured by the negligence of the shopping center’s management, you have a right to expect compensation. Malls may be going broke, but they still carry insurance.

Common Shopping Accidents and Injuries

Car accidents often happen at busy shopping centers through no fault of the mall owner. Parking lot accident claims should be filed with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Accidents that are often the responsibility of the shopping center include:

Slip and falls are the most common shopping center accidents. Slip and falls can be caused by uneven and cracked pavement in parking lots and sidewalks, ice and snow, slippery floors, unsecured electrical cords, spilled drinks and food, uneven floor mats, and other obstacles.

Faulty escalators cause injuries from misaligned handrails, non-synced steps, worn away or nonexistent demarcation lines, broken entry mats, and sudden stops.

Falling debris, advertising signs placed within common areas that tumble over, and worn and broken ceiling tiles can injure unsuspecting shoppers.

Trampling is more common than you might think. Poor security and lack of planning for large crowds can result in injuries caused by trampling, like on “Black Friday” sale days.

Assaults and muggings occur in shopping mall bathrooms and other areas not open to public view. Rapes and robberies can happen in shopping center parking lots, especially parking areas lacking good lighting and a strong security presence.

The most commonly reported injuries from shopping center accidents include:

  • Soft-tissue injuries like bumps, bruises, scrapes, and cuts
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Head wounds and traumatic brain injuries
  • Twisted knee and leg injuries
  • Broken bones

Who Pays for Your Injuries?

Depending on the circumstances of your injury, you may be able to seek compensation from more than one source:

  • Shopping center owner or management company, if you’re hurt in a common area
  • Retail store owner or management company, if you’re injured in a store
  • Manufacturer of defective equipment, like an escalator company
  • Private individuals

If you’re injured in a shopping mall, you may have more than one claim for your injuries. For example, one against the shopping mall, and the other against the retail store where you were injured.

If you were injured inside one of the retail stores, you deal with the retail store first. Your secondary claim is against the shopping mall.

On the other hand, if your injury occurred in the common area of the mall, your claim is against the shopping mall alone. Common areas of the shopping mall include the areas outside of retail stores, parking lots, the areas where people walk, the food court, public restrooms, elevators, and escalators.

Proving Fault for Your Injuries

State and federal laws require shopping center owners to protect visitors on their property from undue harm. Mall owners are ultimately responsible, or liable, for customer safety, meaning mall owners have a legal duty to protect their visitors from injury.

This doesn’t mean the mall owners are liable for every injury to customers. It means they have a duty to protect visitors from injury-accidents that are foreseeable.

For example, if an escalator jerks to a stop, making you fall down the mechanical steps and break an arm, the shopping mall is probably liable.

The mall’s insurance company may argue that the owner could not have foreseen the escalator’s untimely stop. However, maintaining the escalators to keep them running safely is the mall owner’s responsibility.

Serious injuries from mechanical equipment like escalators can be complicated. Contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your eligibility for multiple compensation claims.

Understanding Negligence and Liability

Escalator breakdowns are foreseeable events. It’s up to shopping mall owners to make sure they don’t happen. Failing to have escalators regularly inspected and maintained is negligence. When negligence leads to injuries, the owners are always liable.

On the other hand, if another customer dropped shopping bags on the floor directly in front of you and you tripped over them, breaking your arm, the shopping center would probably not be liable. You would seek injury compensation from the careless individual.

You don’t have to be a paying customer to receive the protection of the shopping mall’s duty of care. If you’re at the mall to window shop, meet friends or any other legitimate reason, you’re a visitor who has a right to the mall owner’s protection from undue harm.

To prove the shopping center was negligent and liable for your injuries, you’ll need to show:

  1. A dangerous condition caused your injuries.
  2. Mall management knew, or should have known, of the dangerous condition.
  3. Mall management failed to remove or repair the dangerous condition.
  4. The dangerous condition was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries.
  5. You have documented injuries and related expenses.
  6. You did nothing to cause your injuries.

You’ll be able to prove the shopping center’s negligence and liability by collecting good evidence to support your claim.

Injury Claims Need Good Evidence

Although the law requires shopping centers to provide a safe environment for visitors, that doesn’t mean mall owners are automatically on the hook when a visitor is injured. When you’ve been injured at a shopping center, it’s up to you to prove your claim.

Your successful injury claim begins and ends with evidence. Without trustworthy evidence, your claim will likely fail. From the moment you’re injured, it’s important to know what to do.

Ask for security personnel: If you’re injured in the common area of a shopping center, look for security personnel. You may have to go to the nearest store and ask an employee to call for you.

When security arrives, take them to the accident scene and show them what caused your injury. They’ll make a detailed incident report. The report will include the date, time, and location of the accident, the type of injury, your contact information, and other notes about the accident.

Ask for medical care: If your injuries are serious, ask security to call 911. Most security guards have first-aid kits and will tend to your wounds until help arrives.  Don’t scream for an ambulance if you don’t need one, but never refuse or delay medical attention after an accident.

If you aren’t taken directly to a hospital from the accident scene, have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. Be sure to tell your medical care providers when, where, and how you were injured. Your medical records will be important evidence for your claim.

Take photographs and videos: While waiting for security, take out your cell phone and photograph the accident scene. Take as many pictures as you can, from different angles. If you slipped on spilled food or liquid, be sure to get pictures of the slippery floor and the surrounding area to show it wasn’t cordoned off or marked with “wet floor” cones.

You can bet management will hurry to get rid of the problem once you’ve reported an injury, so don’t wait to take your pictures.

Speak to witnesses: Witnesses are always important. While family and friends make good witnesses, independent witnesses are even better. They don’t have an emotional or financial interest in the outcome of your insurance claim.

Grab the closest piece of paper, even if it’s the back of an envelope, and ask the witnesses to write down their contact information, a description of what they saw, and the date and time of the accident.

Look for security cameras: You can be sure there are plenty of surveillance cameras in the indoor and outdoor common areas. You may not see them, but they probably recorded your injury.

Tell the security guards you would like copies of the camera footage taken around the time of your injury. That puts them on notice to preserve the film. Your attorney can issue a subpoena to mall management to get copies of the film, incident report, and any other records about your injury.

Proof of your damages: Request copies of all medical bills and records related to your injuries, including ambulance records. Save receipts from medications and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Ask your employer for a written statement of your lost wages, and lost opportunities for overtime.

Write down exactly what happened the day of your injuries. Keep detailed notes about your medical care, pain levels, emotional distress, and how the injuries have affected your activities of daily living. Good notes will help support your compensation demand for pain and suffering.

When Attorneys Can Boost Compensation

You generally won’t need an attorney for soft tissue injuries like bumps, bruises, sprains, or other minor injuries. If you’ve fully recovered, you can probably successfully negotiate your settlement without hiring an attorney.

Calculate your compensation amount by totaling the cost of your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. Add one or two times that amount for pain and suffering.

Send a written demand along with copies of all your bills, wage statement, and other evidence.

We’ve made it easy to with a sample Shopping Mall Accident Demand Letter.

For severe injuries or complicated claims against multiple at-fault parties, you’ll need a skilled personal injury attorney to get a fair amount of compensation.

Insurance companies are well known for offering lower settlements to claimants who aren’t represented. The adjuster knows when they make their “final offer” you probably won’t have the energy or legal savvy to fight for more money.

You don’t have to battle the insurance companies alone, and you certainly don’t have to settle for less. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out how a personal injury attorney can fight for you.

Shopping Mall Accident Questions & Answers

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>