Slip and Fall Accidents: What is the Liability of the Retail Business?
Slip and fall accidents happen all the time, and most of these incidents result in minor injuries (if any at all). That said, falls result in far more moderate to severe injuries than most people realize. Each year, millions of individuals in United States are hospitalized or visit the emergency room because of a fall, and tens of thousands die from these types of accidents.
Seniors are especially vulnerable to injury after a fall. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than three million older adults are treated at emergency rooms for a fall, and over 800,000 are hospitalized. The CDC goes on to say that one out of five falls among seniors results in a serious injury.
Among the most common slip and fall injuries include:
- Head and traumatic brain injuries (TBI);
- Neck and back injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries;
- Shoulder injuries;
- Fractures and broken bones.
Slip and fall injuries can occur just about anywhere; and when they happen while on the property of another party, that party may be liable for the injury under the legal theory known as “premises liability.”
Retail Store Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents
A retail business that is open to the public and welcomes visitors on their premises has a duty to keep their guests reasonably safe. This means taking reasonable steps to keep the property free of dangerous conditions, and to adequately warn visitors of any known hazards. Unfortunately, retail stores do not always live up to this duty, and this can result in one of their guests getting injured.
There are numerous potential hazards that could cause a slip and fall accident at a retail establishment, such as:
- Shelves that are overloaded or improperly stocked, causing merchandise to fall on the floor;
- Food, drinks, and other sticky or slippery substances that get spilled on the floor;
- Cracked flooring, cracked or uneven walking surfaces, torn carpeting, broken stairwells, and other structural defects;
- Poorly lit areas that make it more difficult for a customer to notice a slip and fall hazard;
- Congested and overcrowded areas, such as parking lots or aisles;
- Malfunctioning escalators and elevators.
For a retail business to be held liable for a slip and fall accident that occurs on their premises, the plaintiff must prove the following:
- A hazardous condition existed on the property;
- This hazardous condition was the proximate cause of the slip and fall accident and subsequent injury;
- The owner, manager, or an employee of the retail store knew (or should have known) about the hazardous condition;
- Those in charge of the store at the time failed to take reasonable steps to remedy the condition or adequately warn visitors that it existed.
Retail businesses and their insurers are well aware of the potential for a frivolous slip and fall lawsuit, and they typically push back aggressively when a customer claims that the store was responsible for an injury that occurred on their property. Some possible defenses they may use to argue that the injury was your fault include:
- The hazardous condition was clearly marked before the injury occurred;
- The hazardous condition was “open and obvious” to a reasonable person;
- The injured party was not watching where they were going (e.g., you were texting on your cellphone instead of watching what was in front of you);
- You were in an area of the store that is restricted to customers.
To successfully overcome these arguments, you will need as much evidence and documentation of the incident as possible. One of the most important pieces of evidence will be pictures. Take as many photos as you can while you are at the scene to show clearly that the hazard existed and to show what happened to you. If you are unable to take photos because of your injury, have someone who was with you take them for you.
You will also want to take statements from any individuals nearby who may have witnessed the event and get their contact information. Many witnesses are willing to provide a video statement that you can record with your smart phone. Make sure to do this while you are at the scene, so the event is fresh in everyone’s minds.
Seek immediate medical treatment for your injuries and follow all of your doctor’s orders. Insurance companies have been known to hire investigators to spy on injury victims and look for a reason to deny their claim. Be aware of this possibility and act accordingly.
Finally, consult with an experienced premises liability lawyer as soon as is convenient after the incident to find out if you have a case. The sooner an attorney can get involved, the better your chances that important pieces of evidence can be preserved (such as footage from the store’s security camera).
Call the Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers at Whibbs Stone & Barnett Today
If you or someone close to you has been injured in a slip and fall accident at a Florida retail establishment, call Whibbs Stone & Barnett today at 1-888-219-4561 for a free consultation. You may also send us a message through our web contact form.