Any business that is open to the public has certain legal obligations to keep its customers safe from hazards. If a shopper is walking around a store and slips and falls, the store may be liable for their injuries. However, liability is not always clear and depends on a lot of factors. In this article, we will look at key issues to consider when looking at a slip and fall claim. This information applies to all retailers regardless of their size. If you fall at Walmart, Target, or a small mom and pop shop, all three retailers would be equally liable.
Any business that opens its doors to the public has the same general duty to keep its premises safe. This rule applies to museums, movie theaters, restaurants, shopping malls, stores, and any other retailers. Such businesses are required to perform routine inspections and remove or fix any dangerous conditions. If the condition cannot be removed or fixed, then they should at least warn customers of the dangers, so the customers can make a decision whether they want to assume the risk, or leave.
Common Reasons for In-Store Slip and Fall Accidents
According to this personal injury lawyer, there are many reasons why someone might slip and fall in a store. A customer may fall over uneven concrete in the store's parking lot, or trip over an extension cord which powers the refrigerators in the ice cream isle. If an item is placed on the shelves improperly, it might fall down, causing a tripping hazard for the next customer that walks into that isle. Perhaps someone purchased a soda and let it spill on the floor, and the store employees didn't bother to clean it up. Regardless of the way the hazard was created, the ultimate question will be whether the store knew, or should have reasonably known, of the unsafe condition, and what it did to resolve it.
Whether it was the store or a customer who created the hazard is largely irrelevant. The most important question is one relating to the store's knowledge. Did the store have knowledge of the dangerous condition? If not, should they have known of it? For example, if a puddle of soda sat in an isle for an hour, that would be unreasonable and the store should have known. Once you show that the store should have known about the condition and they failed to remedy it, you have shown negligence. If the plaintiff (the injured person) or their attorney can prove the store's negligence, then it will be likely that the store will be liable for the damages. However, this is not a job that you can do by yourself. You will need to hire a slip and fall attorney to contact the store, subpoena video records, and interview witnesses to see if your case has any merit. If the attorney determines that your case has merit, then he will send a demand letter to the store. If the store doesn't provide satisfactory compensation for your damages, then your attorney will move to file a lawsuit. The amount that you should expect to be awarded depends on your injuries, and your attorney is the one that can provide the best estimate.
A store has no obligation to protect its customers from dangers that are open and obvious. For example, if a customer is texting on his cell phone while walking inside a store, and he falls over a large display that is obvious to someone who is being careful, then a court could determine that the customer also contributed to his own injuries. Had he not been distracted, he would not have been injured. Depending on the jurisdiction, the customer may be completely barred from recovery, or his amount of compensation may be reduced. The same contributory negligence rule applies in almost all other injury claims, including car accidents.