Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere, even at your local grocery store. It is estimated that the average American shopper goes to the grocery store at least six times every month, adding up to more than 332 trips to the supermarket every year. All it takes is for one hazardous condition to result in someone slipping and falling, and seriously hurting himself or herself in the process.
Slip and falls that occur in grocery stores are often the result of spilled or discarded produce or food (think free samples), liquids, and other substances. Oftentimes, these substances can blend in with the color of the flooring, making them difficult to see.
Supermarkets and grocery stores are required to keep their stores safe for customers. Whether you frequent one of the major chain supermarkets, like Publix, Walmart, Winn Dixie, Aldi, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, or a mom-and-pop store in your neighborhood, you have the right to seek compensation if the establishment was responsible for your injuries.
Grocery Store Liability
Any business that opens its doors to the public is legally obligated to keep their premises reasonably safe for their customers. This liability means that the grocery store is responsible for any injuries sustained when someone slips and falls in their store, especially if that fall occurred due to unsafe conditions or hazards on the property. Liability usually hinges on whether the store was negligent in maintaining their store. To win at your claim, you will need to show one or both of the following:
- The grocery store or employee created an unsafe condition in or around the store, or
- The grocery store or employee knew or should have known about an unsafe condition in or around the store and did not fix it within a reasonable time.
The grocery store will do whatever they can to reduce any claim you have against them relating to a slip and fall accident. They will look for ways that you were also liable or negligent in the incident. Claims can be reduced under the doctrine of comparative fault, which allows personal injury claims to be reduced by the percentage of blame the injured party played in the accident.
As Supermarket Accident Attorneys, the most common causes of injuries in supermarkets and grocery stores are:
- Slip and falls, especially in the produce section of the store;
- Slip and falls due to leaks and spills;
- Improperly positioned, or missing floor mats;
- Defective entrance and exit doors;
- Items falling from store shelves;
- Aisle obstructions (i.e. – boxes of food, re-stocking carts placed in the aisles, etc.);
- Cracked and uneven pavement outside;
- Contaminated or spoiled food;
- Damaged or defective grocery carts.
The most common types of injuries to shoppers include:
- Fractures to the legs, hips, arms, and wrists;
- Cracked pelvis;
- Cuts, bruises, and head wounds;
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s);
- Spinal cord and back injuries.
To be successful in a personal injury claim resulting from a slip and fall in a grocery store, it is key that you take several important steps to preserve your claim.
Request to Speak to Management
After the fall, you need to report the incident to the grocery store manager. They need notification that something occurred at their store. If you are not able to do this, have someone who witnessed the fall or someone you are with report the fall. The store will need to prepare an incident report for what happened not only for their insurance reasons, but this also helps establish a trail of documenting what occurred. The worst thing you can do is leave the store after falling and not tell anyone that it occurred.
Use Caution When Speaking to Management or Store Employees
Just like if you are involved in a car accident, after being injured in a slip and fall, you should be cautious with what information is disclosed, whether this information is disclosed to the grocery store management, grocery store employees, or any witnesses to the accident. Many people will react with an immediate apology or some type of admission of guilt. This kneejerk type of reaction could be detrimental to your case. It is always best to keep the information disclosed at the time of the accident to a minimal amount.
Request a Copy of the Incident Report
After the fall is reported, make sure you obtain a copy of the store’s incident report. This will document what occurred and what action was taken after the fall was reported. It will also provide the names of people who were in charge at the store that day, which will be helpful in preparing a possible legal claim. This report may not be available immediately after the fall, but it should be within a few days.
Seek Immediate Medical Treatment
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may not feel like you need to go to a hospital or be seen by a doctor. However, many times, injuries do not fully manifest until days or weeks pass after the slip and fall, which is why it is important you seek immediate medical treatment for your injuries. It helps to seek this medical treatment immediately after the fall occurs because this will document what your condition was like immediately after the fall occurred. The less time that is left between when you fell and when you see a doctor, the higher the chance will be that the grocery store will try to blame your injuries on other causes unrelated to the grocery store.
Get Contact Information of Witnesses
The last thing that you want is for your case to be built solely based on your word versus the grocery store’s word. The more people who witnessed the slip and fall, the stronger your case will be. If other people in the store witnessed the fall, it helps to have their testimony, as well. These witnesses can be people who were with you at the time, but it also helps to get the names and contact information of disinterested witnesses who happened to see what happened.
It is important to prove what the hazardous condition was that caused the slip and fall. It needs to be something that was not caused by the injured store patron but something that was present due to the negligence of the store. After the fall occurs, if possible, the injured party should attempt to take a picture on his or her cell phone or have one taken by a witness to preserve what the conditions were at the time of the fall. An example of what happens when this does not happen involves a slip and fall in a Walgreens store. The plaintiff in this case said that the liquid he slipped on was there before he fell, while the store claimed it was melted snow from the plaintiff’s shoes. The plaintiff ended up losing his case and later appeal because he could not prove that the liquid was already there when the fall occurred.
Obtain Surveillance Footage
To be successful in winning your claim against the grocery store for a slip and fall, you must show that the grocery store and its employees failed to keep the premises safe for visitors. If there was a dangerous or hazardous condition that resulted in the fall, obtaining proof that the hazard was there for some time and the store failed to do anything about it will help you with your case. Most grocery stores have surveillance cameras on site at all times. Obtaining footage of what the scene of the accident looked like for an hour or so before the fall occurred would be helpful. This footage can also show that the danger should have been obvious to the store, meaning it should have been obvious to a reasonable person under the open and obvious doctrine.
Determine the Responsible Party
To bring a successful legal claim, the injured party needs to first determine who the correct party is to sue. The grocery store may be part of a larger chain or may be a subsidiary of a larger corporation. It is important that the ultimate responsible party be determined before filing any legal claim. The store may not even be the right party to sue. If the grocery store owner does not own the property where the fall occurred, the property owner may end up being the responsible party, especially if the property owner is the entity responsible for inspecting and maintaining the property. This situation would be common if your fall was outside of the grocery store, such as on the sidewalk in front of the store or the parking lot. If the injured person is not sure who this is, a personal injury attorney may be able to help assist in this discovery.
Obtain Insurance Information from Responsible Party
While this information may not be on hand immediately by the grocery store manager, you should request the insurance information for the store. Claims paid to individuals injured on store premises will normally be paid from the store’s insurance policies. This information will also need to be provided to a personal injury attorney in case you seek legal counsel.
Collect All Relevant Medical Bills and Records
To prove injuries from the accident, medical treatment plans, bills, and records will need to be submitted. After receiving treatment, make sure the physician’s office provides you with summaries of your visits, what treatments were issued and what the diagnosis was from each visit. Also, make sure to collect all billing relating to these visits to show how much was paid for treatment following your injury.
Contact a Florida Slip and Fall Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident in a grocery store, you should not handle this claim on your own. It helps to have an experienced advocate on your side, someone who can help you win your claim and receive adequate compensation for your damages. The sooner this consultation happens with an experienced slip and fall attorney, the better. At this first meeting, be sure to bring any evidence you have with you, as this will help the attorney prepare your case. Try to contact an attorney before the grocery store’s attorney or insurance company reaches out to you or before you make any attempts to settle a claim. Stores are often represented by strong legal teams who handle these types of claims on a regular basis. You can assume they will do whatever they can to mitigate or reduce how much is paid to you. Having a strong legal advocate on your side will level the playing field and help you achieve the compensation you truly deserve.
As experienced Miami slip and fall accident lawyers, we understand Florida’s slip-and-fall laws and how to hold businesses accountable for our client’s injuries, lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering. If you have suffered a slip and fall at a grocery store, restaurant or retail store in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, The Keys or anywhere in the State of Florida it is critically important for you to consult with an experienced Personal Injury Lawyer who will fight to protect your legal rights. When selecting a lawyer- ask them about their qualifications and experience in claims against grocery stores, retailers, and restaurants. Spencer Aronfeld is a Board-Certified Trial Lawyer and our firm, Aronfeld Trial Lawyers has successfully represented people and their families in slip and fall claims across the country since 1991. Call us today for a free initial consultation 1-866-597-4529 or email [email protected] and speak with an experienced slip and fall lawyer about your potential claim.