It’s the legal responsibility of every business that allows customers through their doors to keep those patrons reasonably safe. From the local boutique to the corporate big box stores, if a business is open to the public, they must take steps to prevent customer injuries.
If a customer does slip and fall in their public place of business, that store may face a liability claim. There are a number of factors that can be used to determine the degree of liability and the amount of compensation that the store may be obligated to provide the accident victim.
The overarching theme to a liability claim for injuries sustained during a slip and fall is that the business failed to take reasonably necessary steps to quickly remove any unsafe conditions. This will be a reoccurring theme in these cases. It will also be the plaintiff’s (injured party’s) primary claim that the store in question will then have to defend.
The most common fall-related accidents are due to hazards that are in the walking path of the customer. These hazards can contribute to a patron tripping or slipping and then falling.
It’s common in stores for floor mats to become worn or bunched-up as a result of long-term foot traffic. As customers are entering a store, they are often preoccupied with getting a cart, checking their list, and deciding where to head first. Any hazards near the entrance can pose a significant risk.
Another common tripping hazard in stores is boxes and pallets. Large commercial supercenters will often unload their truck during business hours. They do this for one main reason, because it doubles their productivity from their employees. Instead of having many employees there during the day to help guests, and having many employees their at night to unload the truck, they combine the two events. This way, the same employees are both stocking the shelves and available to assist customers simultaneously. However convenient this may be for the stores payroll, it can pose a significant risk for trip and fall accidents. As employees stock a shelf, unload a pallet, or prepare their area, they often set boxes on the floor. These unexpected hazards are a major contributor to slip and fall incidents.
Likewise, all the inventory that is being moved around comes on pallets. As the boxes are moved off the pallet, they are often left lying around. Although this is against store policy, it happens all the time. Additionally, the hand-trucks and other machinery used to move the pallets may pose a tripping risk as well.
Another common contributor to these sorts of accidents is the presence of liquids, chemicals, or solvents which make a surface slippery and dangerous to walk on. If there is a spill of any kind on the floor, the person or people responsible for the store are required to place clear and visible signage to notify the customers. They are also required to clean the area as soon as possible using appropriate methods. Any sort of foot traffic through this hazardous area should be completely blocked with an obvious perimeter set around the substance. The area then must be cleaned in a reasonable amount of time. When these steps aren’t followed, individuals walking over the spill may slip.
Trips and slips that lead to a fall due to any sort of negligence or carelessness on the part of the business owner become their legal and financial responsibility . The injured party has a right to seek compensation for their medical care, loss of work, and/or short- and long-term health conditions, as well as any other related damages.
The burden of proof rests on the claimant (injured party) to show that their injury was the result of the store’s failure to take proper action. Basically, they must show that the stores negligence caused their injury.
In this effort, there must be sufficient evidence to first demonstrate that someone working for the establishment was aware of the condition. Meaning, they must have known about the hazard, or should have known about the hazard. The idea of “should have known” can be tricky, but most times it is pretty clear. For example, if the spill was there for three hours, someone should have known. Or, if there were 10 employees all working in that area, someone should have known.
Then, it must be proven that the store did not follow the proper procedures to remedy the hazard. Even if the unsafe condition was caused by another another person or outside circumstances, the business is responsible for remediation. For example, if another customer spills their coffee while walking through the store, it is still the responsibility of that establishment to clean it up.
Another case can be made that store management was aware that conditions were probable or frequent and failed to take any action to alert customers that the hazard existed. Take our example above about boxes and pallets. If they unload their truck every-other day, then they were probably aware that the hazardous conditions were probable or frequent. This type of circumstance can also be used to defend a slip and fall case.
Tangible evidence is crucial in any court case; civil cases are no different. It is one of the great things about our justice system. One cannot just say something happened; they must prove it.
For this reason, a slip and fall accident must be recorded and documented as well as possible immediately after the incident to provide the best chance for compensation. This evidence should include at least:
Take special note of any additional contributing factors related to the surroundings. This might include things like the orientation or arrangement of the store’s aisles, improperly placed or missing caution signage, unsafe stocking practices, or placement of liquids, solvents, or chemicals which should not be there.
It’s also important to get statements and contact information from anyone who saw you fall. That way, they can later describe the incident. This will provide detail and clarity to your case, as well as give it credibility. Collect the witness’s name, phone number, and email address. If possible, get a written and audio description of what they saw also. Most likely, your attorney will contact them later to gather more information, but getting as much as you can, as soon as you can, is always best.
Also, collect the contact information and take note of every employee whom you spoke with just before, during, and after the accident occurred.
Don’t forget to write down your own statement, as well. Include all of the details that you can recall, including what was happening around you, the time of day, what led to the fall, and anything else that you feel may be important.
In many cases, employees or individuals who represent the business’s interests will most likely avoid any sort of assistance. Never rely on the promises or claims of store personnel to make sure the matter will be solved. Collect the pertinent details and keep them on hand for a consultation with a local Clearwater attorney.
At the Dolman Law Group in Clearwater, Florida, our team of highly skilled slip and fall accident attorneys will review your case during a free consultation. Once you know your options, we will help you to obtain the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries, as well as lost wages and other damages. Our slip and fall accident attorneys have helped many victims obtain the recovery they deserve for their injuries and related losses. Please call our office at 727-451-6900 today.