Case Study: Slip and Fall Personal Injury in a Grocery Store

This case study explores what it takes for an injured woman to get the compensation she deserves after a slip and fall. Learn the importance of good evidence in grocery store accidents.

Here we unpack a fictional case study drawn from the fact patterns in actual slip and fall injury claims.

Our study deals with a woman injured from a slip and fall in a grocery store, and what it took to get the insurance company to pay for her damages.

We’ll discuss how the accident occurred, liability, injuries, negotiations, and the final claim resolution.

We wrap up with a list of important points you should know about slip and fall accidents in grocery stores.

How the Injury Happened

Jack and Mary were doing their regular shopping in their local grocery store. There had been a terrible rainstorm earlier that day. The streets and parking lot were still wet and full of puddles from the downpour.

Upon entering the store and walking down aisle three, they couldn’t see the water dripping through the ceiling from a roof leak. The dripping water pooled on the floor.

There were no signs or cones in place to warn shoppers of the wet floor.

As they approached, Mary took a step and immediately slipped. She tried holding onto the grocery cart to no avail as she landed on her tailbone, twisting her body to the right. In excruciating pain, she couldn’t move.

Jack ran to the nearest employee and told them what happened. The employee brought a chair and helped Jack lift Mary from the wet floor.

The manager came and asked if she needed an ambulance. Wet, embarrassed, and in pain, Mary said she’d rather have her husband take her to urgent care.

The manager quickly brought an incident report form for Mary to sign. In the report, there was a section that read: “Was there any signage or warnings?” The manager checked to box for “Yes.”

Mary was about to sign the incident report when she noticed the checkmark. She asked the manager to please cross off his checkmark and initial that there were no warning signs.

Damages from the Slip and Fall

Jack took Mary straight to the nearest Urgent Care Center from the store. When they arrived, Mary needed a wheelchair brought to the car because she was in too much pain to walk.

The doctor took X-rays of Mary’s ankle and lower back, which showed that Mary suffered a fractured tail bone and a sprained ankle from her fall.

She was given a prescription for pain medicine, ordered to stay off her feet, and told to follow up with her family doctor.

Mary’s internist confirmed her injuries from the fall. Under doctor’s orders, Mary was unable to work for eight weeks, until her tailbone healed enough to allow her to sit at her desk all day.

For the first month, Mary could not bear to be up for longer than it took to visit the bathroom.

Even when she could tolerate being out of bed, Mary was unable to do any housework, prepare meals for herself or her family, or walk the family dog. She could only sit on a pillow in a chair.

Mary missed eight weeks of work, costing her $4,800 in lost wages. Her medical expenses, including follow-up x-rays, came to $3,500. Adding an amount to account for Mary’s pain and suffering, her attorney valued Mary’s claim at $45,000.

Liability for Slip and Fall Damages

Property owners are obligated to make periodic inspections of their property and take reasonable steps to prevent harm to others.

In many slip and fall claims, the issue of liability turns on whether the store owner knew, or should have known of the hazard. That’s where the importance of good evidence comes in.

Mary’s attorney wasted no time in gathering evidence to support Mary’s injury claim. The attorney immediately sent a spoliation letter to the store owner, warning the store owner to protect and preserve store surveillance film and other critical evidence.

The insurance company initially balked at accepting Mary’s claim, arguing that she fell due to her own clumsiness and that the claim form initially said there were warnings. Adding insult to injury, the adjuster suggested Mary probably wouldn’t have been injured by the fall if she wasn’t overweight.

Mary’s attorney responded by filing a lawsuit on Mary’s behalf.

In pre-trial discovery, Mary’s attorney was able to force the store to hand over copies of their surveillance videos, maintenance records, and management reports.

The attorney also arranged to question under oath the employees who worked the day of Mary’s fall.

Surveillance video and employee testimony proved that:

  • The store’s roof often leaked after heavy rains
  • An employee knew about the puddle at least 30 minutes before Mary’s fall
  • There was no effort made to clean up the water on the floor
  • There were no wet floor signs or cones placed to warn customers
  • Mary slipped on the puddle causing her body to be slammed onto the hard floor

The evidence proved that Mary was injured through no fault of her own, and the store was clearly liable for her damages.

Insurance Negotiations and Settlement

The insurance adjuster who initially refused Mary’s claim began to sing a different tune after a lawsuit was filed. However, the adjuster still started out with a low-ball settlement offer of $3,000 to “make it all go away.”

Mary’s attorney calmly rejected the low opening offer and countered by lowering the demand from $45,000 to $43,000 to show a willingness to negotiate.

Confident that the insurance company wouldn’t risk letting a jury see the evidence at trial, Mary’s attorney aggressively negotiated a fair settlement for Mary.

The insurance company ultimately settled for $30,000 on the eve of trial because the attorney remained confident in his case.

Important Points About Slip and Fall Claims

  • Always seek medical attention after a slip and fall to connect your injuries to the incident.
  • If you handle your own claim, include spoliation language in your notification letter.
  • The store won’t hand over surveillance film or store records without a subpoena.
  • You’ll need a personal injury attorney to get fair compensation for serious injuries.

 

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