Supermarket and Grocery Store Accidents: How to Claim Injury Compensation

Have you or a loved one been injured in a supermarket or grocery store accident? Find out what it takes to get fair compensation for your injuries, pain and suffering.

The average American shopper heads to the grocery store at least six times every month, adding up to more than 332 trips to the supermarket every year.¹

Food shoppers are injured or sickened every day because of store negligence. Whether you shop at major chain supermarkets or a local mom-and-pop grocery, you have a right to expect compensation for your injury or illness.

Under the umbrella of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are thousands of local and state agencies regulating food safety in grocery stores and other food service establishments.²

You might have a cause of action against the grocer for poor food handling if you were sickened by tainted or spoiled food.

All supermarkets and groceries are required to keep their stores safe for customers. Injured shoppers can seek full compensation, thanks to customer-friendly premises liability laws.

Supermarket Accidents and Injuries

Common causes of injuries in supermarkets and grocery stores include:

  • Damaged grocery carts
  • Bunched, improperly positioned, or missing floor mats
  • Slippery floors from leaks and spills
  • Faulty entrance and exit doors
  • Items falling from grocery store shelves
  • Aisle obstructions from boxes, pallets, and food
  • Cracked and uneven outside pavement
  • Tainted or spoiled food

Common types of injuries to shoppers and their children include:

  • Fractured wrist or arm
  • Fractured legs
  • Fractured hips
  • Cracked pelvis
  • Head wounds, including fractured skull, cuts, bruises
  • Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries
  • Back and spinal cord injuries

Most people are injured in stores by slip-and-fall accidents. Older shoppers are particularly vulnerable to severe fall injuries. For example, a fractured hip can permanently disable the person who slipped on a wet floor in the produce section.

Children and adults can be cut, pinched, or scratched by poorly maintained grocery carts. Children can fall out of unsafe grocery carts, smashing head-first onto the concrete floor with disastrous results.

When to Expect Compensation

Every American state and the District of Columbia have premises liability laws that apply to supermarkets and grocery stores.

Duty of Care: Under premises liability laws, stores have a duty of care, meaning an obligation, to make their building and property safe for customers. The store’s obligation includes keeping an eye out for common hazards and taking care of the problem before someone gets hurt.

The law doesn’t require the store to be responsible for every imaginable harm. It means harm that is reasonably foreseeable. There are common hazards that store owners can expect to happen and should take reasonable care to prevent or correct.

For example, if an employee leaves a pallet in the middle of an aisle and a customer trips over it, that’s foreseeable harm. However, if an earthquake suddenly and unexpectedly shakes the building and merchandise falls on a customer, that’s unforeseeable.

Of course, if your supermarket is in an earthquake-prone area, it can be argued the earthquake was foreseeable, and the store should have taken precautions against falling merchandise.

Don’t take no for an answer. If the supermarket doesn’t take responsibility for your injuries, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your claim.

It helps to understand some terms used in supermarket injury claims:

Negligence: The act causing the supermarket to breach its duty of care is legally the negligent act or the store’s negligence. A faulty door, slippery aisles, merchandise falling on a customer, and other hazards can constitute a supermarket’s negligence.

Liability: When supermarkets fail to protect their customers from foreseeable harm, they’ve breached (violated) their duty of care to the customer. As a result, the supermarket becomes liable, meaning responsible, for the customer’s damages.

Damages: The costs associated with your injuries are called damages. Personal injury damages include medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses for medicines and necessities, lost wages, and an amount for pain and suffering.

You can expect to be compensated for your injuries when:

  1. The supermarket owed you a duty of care.
  2. You were injured because of the store’s negligence.
  3. The store breached their duty of care to you by their negligence.
  4. The supermarket is liable for your damages.
  5. You have real and measurable damages.

Burden of Proof: When you file a claim with the supermarket’s insurance company, you can’t just sit back and wait for a check. You have the legal burden of proof to support your claim, meaning it’s up to you to prove the store was to blame for your injuries.

The insurance company won’t pay a penny unless there’s proof you were hurt by the store’s negligence. You’ll need good evidence to build a strong injury claim.

How to Build a Strong Personal Injury Claim

Knowing what to do after a supermarket or grocery store injury is crucial to building a strong claim. Just as important is avoiding costly mistakes. Your actions immediately after the injury are important.

Call for the manager: If you fall and can’t get up, ask the person nearest to you to call the manager. It’s important for the manager to see the scene exactly as it was at the time you fell. For example, if you were by the produce section and fell on water pooled on the floor, the manager should look at where you fell, the water under you, and where the water was leaking.

Store incident reports: Most supermarkets and chain grocery stores require their managers to file an incident report with the corporate headquarters. The report will include the date and time of the accident, its causes, and the customer’s contact information.

Ask the manager for a copy. The manager may say the reports are for company use only. That’s okay. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, your attorney can subpoena the store’s records about the accident.

Seek medical care: If you believe you’re seriously injured, ask the manager to call 911. The paramedics will treat you, and if necessary, take you to the local hospital emergency room.

If you aren’t taken directly to the hospital, have a medical evaluation as soon as possible. See your primary care provider, go to the emergency room, or visit an urgent care center. Be sure to tell your medical provider when, where, and how you were injured.

Look for witnesses: Family or friends may make good witnesses, but independent eyewitnesses are even better. Unfortunately, many people don’t want to “get involved,” especially if they might be questioned in a court case.

Nevertheless, do your best to get the names and contact information from independent witnesses. Ask them to jot down on any piece of paper where you can reach them and what they saw. Helpful witness reports might include:

  • A witness saw an employee walk right by the spill and ignore it.
  • A witness saw another customer slip and almost fall.

Statements like these can be compelling evidence that the store was aware, or should have been aware of the hazard that caused your injury.

Use that cell phone: These days just about everyone has a cell phone with photo and video capabilities. Use your phone to capture the scene exactly as it is. Be sure your phone shows the date and time of the pictures and videos. You can never have too much photographic evidence of your accident.

For example, if a door hit you as you left the supermarket, video it as it opens and closes to show the mechanical problems. If the problem was with the food when you got home (for instance, you got food poisoning from meat), photograph the sell-by date with the store receipt right next to it.

Surveillance cameras: Look around for store cameras. Most supermarkets have surveillance cameras in place. Ask the manager to show you the video footage that includes your injury.

For example, if you were walking down the aisle when merchandise fell on top of you, the surveillance camera may provide a unique angle. The angle may include a view from above the shelf proving merchandise was overloaded or placed unevenly.

Insurance information: Ask the manager for the name of the store’s insurance company. It’s likely the manager will say someone from the insurance company will contact you after the incident report is filed. That’s fine, but get the name and address of the supermarket’s corporate office anyway.

If you haven’t heard from anyone for a week or two, call the manager. If the store manager is unable to help you, contact the corporate office directly.

Smaller grocery stores may not have corporate offices. Be sure to get the owner’s contact information. Confirm that the manager will promptly submit the incident report to the owner. If you don’t hear from the store’s owner or insurance company, go back to the manager and ask again.

Medical records: Collect copies of your medical bills and records. Also copy all your receipts for out-of-pocket costs like medicines, doctor’s office parking lot fees and other related expenses. You should also track your mileage to medical and therapy appointments.

Lost wages: If you’ve had to miss work for doctors’ visits or therapy, ask your employer for a statement of your lost wages, including lost opportunities for overtime, and how much vacation or sick leave you had to use while recovering from your injury.

Avoid These Costly Mistakes

A supermarket accident can happen when you least expect it. The main door may hit you, or you may slip and fall on rainwater or spilled food. You may get food poisoning from rancid meat or hit by merchandise falling off the shelves. These injury-causing accidents and others like them occur every day in food stores around the country.

Doing or saying the wrong thing after a supermarket injury can seriously undermine your claim. Beware of common mistakes the insurance company will use against you:

Leaving the scene of the accident: It’s embarrassing to fall in public, or be in the midst of noisy, crashing merchandise. Your first instinct may be to get up and walk away as quickly as possible. It’s understandable if you want to get out of there as fast as you can. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do.

For most of us, the adrenaline rush at the time of an injury can mask its symptoms. You may feel perfectly all right just after the incident, only to discover hours later your muscles are sore, your face is swollen, or that cut on your arm is deeper than you first thought.

By that time, it may be too late. The insurance company won’t hesitate to deny your claim, arguing that you have no proof the injury happened at the store.

Immediately report your accident to the supermarket’s manager. If the manager isn’t available, then report it to the first employee you see. It only takes a few minutes. That few minutes can mean the difference between compensation for your injuries and outright denial of your claim against the store.

Admissions against interest: Don’t say anything after an accident to make excuses for what happened, or to minimize your injuries. Anything the store workers hear you say can be used against you. Admissions against interest include statements like:

  • “I should have watched where I was going.”
  • “I’m all right, only my dignity is injured.”
  • “I shouldn’t have worn these shoes today.”
  • “It’s nobody’s fault, I’m just clumsy.”

Delaying medical treatment: Never refuse medical treatment at the scene, or delay follow-up care. You’ll need timely proof that you were injured at the supermarket, and medical documentation to support the severity of your injuries. Insurance companies deal with fake injury claims every day. Don’t give them an excuse to treat you like a crook.

When You Need an Attorney to Win

Most slip and falls and other types of grocery store accidents result in soft-tissue injuries, like muscle or joint sprains and strains, bumps and bruises, or superficial cuts and scrapes.

If you’ve fully recovered from minor soft-tissue injuries, you can usually negotiate a fair settlement from the store’s insurance company without an attorney. You can figure out a target settlement amount by totaling your medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, and lost wages. Add one or two times that amount to compensate you for pain and suffering.

Submit your compensation demand in writing, enclosing copies of your medical bills and other evidence.

We’ve made it easier with a sample Supermarket Injury Demand Letter.

Claims against a supermarket for severe injuries or wrongful death are nearly impossible to settle successfully on your own. Mega-chain corporations don’t care how badly you or your loved one suffered.

Insurance companies are notorious for offering much smaller settlements to unrepresented claimants. That’s if they offer you anything at all. Supermarket executives would rather spend their money on corporate lawyers than pay a high-dollar injury claim.

You have too much at stake to face the insurance company without a lawyer in a complicated or expensive claim. There’s no obligation, and it costs nothing to find out what an experienced personal injury attorney can do for you.

Supermarket Injury Claim 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 >>