If you’re about to deal with Walmart’s large and experienced legal team, you should know what to expect. We’ll cover how they typically handle lawsuits and what you need to prepare.
Any company so large will have property and risk management issues to go along with its sales. One of these issues are slip and fall accidents.
How much difference can it make if you slip and fall in a Walmart versus a small business with only one store? Quite a bit. Since Walmart is one of the largest retailers in the world, it has a sophisticated system for dealing with personal injury claims at its stores.
Like many big corporations, it has hundreds of attorneys handling its legal business. These are lawyers employed by Walmart directly (known as in-house lawyers), as well as those hired to work on particular cases. Walmart also has its own insurance company to assist in handling claims, which we’ll break down in the next section.
All of this means that if you suffer from an injury due to a slip and fall at Walmart, you need to present your claim well. A smaller business might be anxious to settle a claim out of court and stop the expense of legal fees. Walmart, though, has the resources and experience to resist paying unsupported claims.
This article will look at how slip and fall accidents are handled by Walmart and how its process is unique. We’ll also examine the steps you need to take to prove your claim and what may happen at different steps of the process.
The First Stop: Walmart’s Insurance Company
Slip and fall accidents happen all the time in retail stores. Merchandise may be left on the floor of an aisle by either staff members or customers. Employees giving out free samples of food may drop slippery food on the floor. Customers may drop drinks that the store neglects to clean up. Walmart employees may even clean the floor and leave it slicker than it was.
Also, don’t forget that the store property extends beyond the building itself. Did you fall in the parking lot? Did you get into a car accident caused by a runaway shopping cart? These are also spaces in which dangerous conditions can exist. If you are injured anywhere on the property, the company can still be held accountable.
The results of these incidents are foreseeable: broken hips, fractured wrists, even head and spinal cord injuries. The injuries from these accidents usually don’t differ between Walmart and smaller retailers. But the difference lies in the fact that Walmart has a ton of experience with these kinds of claims because of its size.
That experience will first show itself with Walmart’s captive insurance company.
What is a Captive Insurance Company?
A captive insurance company is one that is owned by the insured. For example, a company like Walmart that must purchase a lot of insurance and manage a lot of risk might use a captive company to manage its costs associated with these claims. This is legal and usually a smart move for large companies that have to manage a lot of risk.
While most claims will be handled by the captive insurance company, very large claims may still involve a third-party insurance company. If your claim involves traumatic brain injury, wrongful death, or some other catastrophic event, you will likely need to deal with both Walmart and a separate insurance company.
Because it has this vast risk management system, Walmart will have several procedures in place for dealing with a large variety of slip and fall claims. Perhaps the most relevant procedural rule here is that, like many high-profile companies, Walmart will not rush to pay out claims at the first sign of trouble.
Paying claims before there has been sufficient time to examine or investigate them can be problematic for companies like Walmart because it may give the impression that they are an easy source of money with deep pockets. Therefore, their procedure tends to be to push back and demand evidence regarding your injury.
Caution: Giving Recorded Statements
When you first submit a claim to Walmart’s insurance company, you will likely be introduced to its investigation company, Claims Management, Inc. (CMI). CMI may ask you to give a recorded statement about your injury. Be very careful about agreeing to this, and seek legal advice before you do.
Because CMI is owned by Walmart, the statement the company takes from you can likely be used against you later if there is litigation. This is true of all correspondence with the insurance company, including mail, email, and phone calls.
How To Prove a Walmart Slip and Fall Claim
Because the Walmart claim process is so well thought out, make sure that evidence for your slip and fall claim is especially clear and organized.
1. Medical Records
The first part of your claim is your medical bills and records. These will show how you were injured and the cost of your medical treatment. They should also show your prognosis and the cost of any future medical attention.
2. Evidence of Other Damages (Lost Wages, Pain and Suffering, etc.)
The second part of your claim documents should be devoted to other effects that your injury has had on your life. Missed work because of a broken back? Include that information. Hopefully you can supplement it with documentation from your workplace. Statements and photos of any other non-work activities you cannot now engage in are critical.
3. Evidence Showing How the Accident Happened
Last but not least is the factual evidence of how you were injured at the Walmart store. Keep in mind that the claims adjuster looking at your file has probably seen hundreds, if not thousands of claims like yours. You need specific information about what happened, including photographs, video, and other evidence showing the circumstances that led to your injury.
When collecting this evidence, don’t forget that Walmart has a specific policy stating that it may collect video and audio recordings via “in-store technology.” In other words, according to Walmart’s own corporate website, it’s very likely that your slip and fall accident was recorded on security camera footage.
After ensuring that your medical needs are met, your priority should be requesting and obtaining the security footage from the Walmart store where you were injured. Because Walmart is a private company, this is not as easy as getting footage from a public agency like a police department.
You will have to obtain the footage from Walmart in one of two ways. First, you can ask the store to turn it over voluntarily. Though easier, this is very unlikely, as Walmart’s risk management and legal departments likely have internal policies preventing the release of footage that can then legally be used against them.
The more difficult (but more reliable) method is to retain an attorney who will then subpoena the footage from Walmart. This procedure does require you to file a lawsuit against Walmart. Though you may technically be able to do this without an attorney, the legal complexities of a subpoena will likely need a lawyer.
What To Expect in Your Case Against Walmart
This volume of litigation allows Walmart to come up with sophisticated strategies for fighting slip and fall injury claims.
Walmart’s large and experienced legal team makes it necessary for you to get your own attorney so that you can have a fair fight. With proper representation and evidence, slip and fall injuries can result in large judgments against Walmart.
This recently happened in a West Virginia case resulting in a $17 million verdict. That verdict was promptly appealed by Walmart. (An appeal is filed by the losing side in a lawsuit, charging that the trial court made a mistake in its decision.) Walmart’s appeal was not successful. The West Virginia Supreme Court held that the trial court’s decision was correct.
Even if you can get a judgment against Walmart on your slip and fall case, expect the company to pursue appeals. If an appeal is filed, you can still engage in settlement negotiations. You would probably be paid a lesser agreed-upon amount. Consult an attorney before doing so.
Be Organized and Consider Hiring an Accident Lawyer
Pursuing an injury claim against a retail giant like Walmart is always going to be a difficult task. You can make it easier on yourself by organizing the evidence and presenting it in a clear, compelling way. Having a good personal injury lawyer on your side can also help immeasurably.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident in a Walmart store, take action today. Contact a personal injury attorney or law firm in your state for a free consultation and case evaluation.
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