Supermarket accidents injure thousands of people each year. Although normally well-maintained, supermarkets and grocery stores are still a haven for customer injuries. With thousands of people shopping each day, accidents will happen.
The Federal Food and Drug Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and a host of other government agencies regulate supermarkets. To minimize injury claims, supermarket insurance companies closely monitor their stores’ safety features. In addition, most supermarkets have regular company inspections to ensure the entire premises, including the parking lot, remain safe for employees and customers alike.
Even with strict governmental regulation, insurance company monitoring and company inspections, shoppers continue to get injured in record numbers. There are a number of causes of supermarket accidents, any one can result in mild to serious injuries.
The most common causes of injuries in supermarkets are:
- Lacerations (cuts) from damaged grocery carts
- Bunched, improperly positioned, or missing entrance and exit floor mats
- Slippery floors from leaks at produce and refrigerated sections
- Faulty entrance and exit doors
- Items falling from grocery store shelves
- Aisle obstructions from boxes, pallets, and food
- Cracked and uneven outside pavement
- Food poisoning from out-of-date products and rotten food
Duty of Care
The laws in all 50 states follow similar lines. Supermarkets have a legal obligation (duty of care) to make their premises safe from undue harm. This doesn’t mean every imaginable harm. It means harm that is reasonably foreseeable.
For example, if an employee leaves a pallet in the middle of an aisle and a customer trips over it, that’s a foreseeable harm. However, if an earthquake suddenly and unexpectedly shakes the building and merchandise falls on a customer, that’s unforeseeable.
When supermarkets fail to protect their customers from undue, foreseeable harm, they’ve breached (violated) their duty of care to the customer. As a result, the supermarket becomes liable for the customer’s damages. Damages can include the customer’s medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses for medicines and necessities, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
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 things like them, in many cases constitute a supermarket’s negligence.
Burden of Proof
Saying a supermarket breached its duty of care is one thing. Proving it is another. The law says an injured customer has to prove (a legal burden of proof) the supermarket’s negligence caused her injuries. The supermarket doesn’t have to prove anything.
It’s up to the customer to prove negligence. That means proving the supermarket accident was foreseeable. Unless you know what you’re looking for when trying to prove negligence, you might end up with nothing.
What to do if you have a supermarket accident…
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, having the manager see the full context of the scene is vital. This includes where you fell, the water under you, and where the water was leaking.
Store incident reports
Most supermarkets and local grocery stores require their managers to document accidents. It’s likely the manager will write a supermarket accident report. 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. It’s unlikely he’ll give you one since those reports are normally for company purposes only. That’s okay. If a lawsuit becomes necessary, your attorney can subpoena it.
Ask for medical care
If you believe you’re seriously injured, ask the manager to call 911. It’s important not to overcompensate. If your injuries aren’t serious, and ultimately didn’t merit dispatch of fire and rescue or the paramedics, you may end up having to pay their costs. If you’re seriously injured, the paramedics will treat you, and if necessary take you to the local hospital emergency room.
The paramedics will write a report of your treatment, which you can use to support your injury claim. The records made at the emergency room are strong evidence linking your injury to the accident. Be sure to request copies of the paramedics’ report, your hospital admitting chart, and the doctor’s written diagnosis. You have a right to all of them.
Look for witnesses
Family or friends may make good witnesses, but independent eyewitnesses are even better. Unfortunately, many people just don’t want to “get involved,” especially if they think they have to testify at a trial or give depositions (recorded interviews by both attorneys about the accident).
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 are highly prejudicial observations and can damage the store if it claims the accident was unforeseeable.
Use that cell phone
These days just about everyone has a cell phone with photo and video capabilities. Use your cell phone to capture the scene exactly as it is. Be sure to have the date and time stamp function engaged. You can never take too many shots.
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 is 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.
Look around for store cameras. Most supermarkets have surveillance cameras in place. Ask the manager to see the portion of the video 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 shot from above the shelf proving merchandise was overloaded or placed unevenly.
Ask the manager for the supermarket insurance company’s name. Large supermarket chains normally have corporate offices. It’s likely the manager will tell you he’ll submit his incident report and someone from the company will contact you. That’s fine but get the name and address of the supermarket’s corporate office anyway.
If after a couple of weeks you haven’t heard from someone at corporate headquarters, call the manager. Tell him you’re still waiting. If he doesn’t help, contact the corporate office yourself.
Smaller grocery stores may not have corporate offices. Be sure to get the owner’s contact information. Confirm with the manager that he will submit the incident report to the owner promptly. If you don’t hear from the owner or his insurance company, go back to the manager and ask again.
Medical records and bills, receipts and lost wages
Collect copies of your medical and therapy records. Also copy all your medical bills, receipts for medicines, doctor’s office parking lot fees and other related expenses. If you’ve had to miss work for doctors’ visits or therapy, have your employer verify your lost wages on company letterhead.
The majority of supermarket injuries are minor, or soft tissue injuries. Claims for minor injuries usually don’t require an attorney. If the insurance company denies your claim or their offer to settle isn’t fair, you can always use your local small claims court. In most small claims courts, you can sue for medical bills, expenses, lost wages, and your pain and suffering. The filing fee is usually around $100. Sometimes it’s well worth it.
If you do suffer serious injuries or the store’s insurance company refuses to cooperate in settling your claim, meet with a personal injury attorney to review your case. Most attorneys don’t charge any fee for an initial consultation to review the facts of your claim.
What NOT to do if you have a supermarket accident…
A supermarket accident can be deceptive. It can occur when you least expect it. A main door may hit you, or you may slip and fall on rainwater or food spillage. 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 supermarkets and grocery stores around the country.
Your first instinct after an accident may be to get up and walk away as quickly as possible. People are often embarrassed when they suffer what might initially appear to be a self-caused accident. You may think, “It must be my fault, I slipped,” or “I should have seen those empty boxes in the aisle.” It’s understandable if you want to move on as quickly 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 to link your injury to the accident at the supermarket.
If a significant amount of time elapses between the accident and your claim of injury, the supermarket’s insurance company can claim your injuries are from some other event completely unrelated to the supermarket.
Example: Waiting to Report Injury
Suzie Toolate went into the grocery store’s restroom. While there, Suzie slipped and fell on water on the floor. Instead of reporting the incident to the manager, Suzie went home, only to discover that the next morning her arm was swollen and painful.
By the time Suzie returned to report the incident, an employee, as part of his normal duties, had already mopped up the spill. The manager told Suzie he regretted her injuries, but there was no way he could legitimately file an accident claim – too much time had elapsed. In the interim, he said, Suzie could have injured her arm in any number of other ways.
This is why it’s so important to 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 an injury insurance claim against the store.
See an example of a supermarket injury demand letter here.
Slip and Fall Personal Injury Lawsuit – This case deals with a common situation where a woman slips on a puddle in the grocery store. The plaintiff argues the store owner is liable since there was no warning of a hazardous condition.
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Visitor Questions on Supermarket Accident Claims
How can I keep the processing of my slip and fall claim moving? While recently at the grocery store, I walked to bag my groceries and slipped and fell on water that was in the bagging area. I bruised my ribs and wrenched my back, neck and right shoulder. When I went to the doctor, he told me to take anti-inflammatory medication, ice the area, and get rest.... Read More >>
Strained back from slip in grocery store… There was salsa spilled across the aisle in a grocery store and I slipped on it. My legs separated enough to cause a strain in my lower back. I have waited a few days to seek medical treatment. I have lost time at work and am beginning to feel better. I have had pain but... Read More >>
My mother slipped and fell on soapy water… My mom fell at a market where the floor was soapy with water and no wet floor signs. She slipped and fell and hurt her knee. The store manager was called and made the report, and security on hand and a male employee helped my mom up as it was very painful. They noticed there were no wet... Read More >>
Slip and Fall with no medical bills… I was in a grocery store and slipped on a puddle of water and my shin hit the cart. The store assumed one hundred percent responsibility. They said an employee left a cart of broccoli to thaw and wasn’t paying attention. I had excruciating bone pain and a really ugly bruise and bump for almost... Read More >>
How can I get help for injuries and pain after falling in a market? I was shopping in the supermarket with my 5 year old niece. We were separated for about a minute. When I caught up to her in another isle, I fell on the left side of the shopping cart. I was wearing flipflops and had a splint on my right hand. I saw nothing on the... Read More >>
Fell trying to free a stuck grocery cart from the stack of carts… Just after entering the grocery store, at about 11:30 AM four days ago, I went to get a grocery cart which was stuck to the one ahead of it in the stacked row of carts. Giving it a good yank, I freed the cart, only to lose my balance when stepping backward while hanging onto... Read More >>
Vegetables falling off shelf caused rotator cuff tear… In selecting cauliflower from a high shelf in the vegetable bin, several bunches weighing approx 3 lbs each came tumbling down at me. In swatting them away I felt a massive tear and pain in my shoulder. I buckled over in pain and as I was leaving the store and told the cashier that I... Read More >>
Mom fell into unloading equipment… Today my mom was shopping at a local grocery store and went over to the refrigerated section to pick up some orange juice. In order to get to the fridge, she had to maneuver her way around a large piece of equipment that is used to unload shipments off of trucks. She lost her footing... Read More >>
Injury from slipping and falling on frozen corn kernels… I slipped and fell on crushed frozen corn kernels in a major supermarket chain on 8/3/15. I was badly shaken up and the managers buzzed around me keeping all witnesses at bay. I went for medical care that day to rule out a fracture in my knee. I sustained bruising and abrasions to my wrist,... Read More >>
Toddler burned his palm in a store… My 15 month old was browsing through the grocery store food and pointing what he would or wouldn’t eat. It is sort of a game we play when shopping, learning names of the food. After many “NO’s”, and then agreeing on some veggies, he saw a roasted whole chicken in a plastic box. He ran... Read More >>
Stepped and fell on grapes on the floor in produce section… While shopping at a supermarket in Sugarland, Texas, I was in the produce section and slipped on grapes, which were scattered on the floor. I fell and landed on my hip & elbow. People and workers rushed to help. I was able to stand up, and management came and got my information. They also offered... Read More >>
Automatic door malfunctioned and injured my arm… As I exited the a store, the automatic door opened and then sprang back as I walked through. The thumb lock of the door hit me in my right arm. I reported the injury to the manager and left my contact information. I had a bruise and painful knot the next day so I went... Read More >>
Compensation for lost financial aid due to foot injury? I’m a Paralegal Student and in May 2014, I broke 2 toes while walking in a parking lot of a supermarket that was covered in potholes. I suffered numerous financial losses due to this injury. I lost Financial Aid because I got injured the day of finals. A failing grade lowered my GPA last Spring,... Read More >>
No accident report form? My 87 year old mother was in a supermarket called on July 14, 2014, the day of her birthday. She suddenly stepped on what was a tomato, slipped and fell to the ground. Her granddaughter was only a few feet away and turned around to see a store clerk and a customer trying to help... Read More >>
Broken Shopping Cart Breaks Toe! OUCH! Went to a supermarket and they had no grocery carts in the cart corral. There were two outside of the corral: one with only two wheels and the other was raggedy but could be used. I got it through the front door, and the part where the kids sit broke off and fell on my... Read More >>
Injured in market by another shopper ramming cart into me… I was shopping in a supermarket and bending down to get eggs (the dairy dept fridge is low). As I was bending, a shopper with 2 kids in a metal shopping cart rammed into me. The store aisles are known to have boxes and pallets all around in the aisles, and she tried to avoid... Read More >>
Arm caught in automatic door… My 2 year old daughter’s arm was caught in the automatic door at the supermarket. She had touched the door as we were leaving and it moved over her hand, smashing her arm back and dragging her with it. Her arm is indented and bruised. I am furious that there was no way to stop... Read More >>
Can I sue a supermarket for first degree burn to my son? While at the local supermarket, me and my children, ages 2 and 5, walked over to the cooked/hot rotisserie chickens that were displayed on a series of warming shelves. As I reached for one on the upper shelf, my son screamed in pain. I looked down and his hand was on the bottom shelf. He... Read More >>
Stepped on Broken Glass in a Store… I stepped on a piece of glass in a grocery store and started to bleed quite a bit. I don’t need stitches but am concerned about glass being inside my foot or infection. Their insurance person contacted me the next day and agreed to pay medical bills of $42. My question is, should I be... Read More >>
Re- Injured Neck While on Disability… I slipped on clear liquid at a grocery store, it’s very similar to a case that was given as an example on this site. I was already disabled from previous injuries (broken neck). At the time of the fall I was doing fairly well, after several surgeries. Since the fall I am back to square... Read More >>
Broken Beer Bottles Cut Foot at Grocery Store… On April 14th, 2012 I was in a large chain store doing my Saturday shopping. I had picked up a 12 pack of beer bottles and about $165 of other grocery items. While checking out, I was handing the clerk my boxed beer and the cardboard handle ripped, causing all 12 bottled beers to come... Read More >>
Slipped on Broken Eggs in Grocery Store… I was walking down an isle in a grocery store, walking at a regular pace, when I all but slipped but caught myself. I realized after a bit that someone prior had dropped raw eggs on the floor. Someone must have picked up the shells but left the remaining egg on the floor. I badly... Read More >>
Injured Toe in Grocery Store… I injured my toe at a large grocery chain. There was a store employee who was a witness and immediately came over to assist me. I notified the store manager who notified (I believe) the store director. They gave me a chair to sit in and the store director had me fill out an accident... Read More >>
Pulled Muscle from Slipping at a Store… I was at major retail chain store in the frozen food aisle. I went to open the frozen food door to reach in for the frozen chopped onions, and my left foot slipped from under me. It happened really fast and I fell hard, but I held on to the cart. I looked down and... Read More >>
Father and 2 Year Old Hit by Electric Cart in a Grocery Store… My family and I were shopping at a grocery store and an electric cart rammed right into me and my 2yr old daughter. Someone called 911 at the time. Now the store is calling me asking me questions. I am okay physically. A claim officer is supposed to call me from the store’s insurance company... Read More >>
Cut by Glass Jars at a Grocery Store… I couldn’t reach a jar of juice while shopping at a grocery store and so I asked one of the workers to get the juice for me. As he was getting the juice, the shelf beside him collapsed and all the glass juice jars came crashing down in front of me (about 15 jars). The... Read More >>
Slip and fall advice for personal injury in a store… I need slip and fall advice for my case: I was in a supermarket, exchanging an item. As I was rushing to customer service I took a short cut through aisle 3. This aisle had just got done getting restocked with drinks. As soon as he finished stocking I was rushing through, then all of... Read More >>
I tripped and fell in a grocery store and broke my arm… I was injured when walking into a grocery store. There was a metal strip on their flooring that was lifted up and I didn’t see it. I tripped and fell and broke my arm. They refused to help me. Why would a business refuse to help someone that is injured on their property when they... Read More >>