A Store’s Liability for Slip and Fall Accidents
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We don’t often think that an everyday visit to a restaurant, a grocery store, or another place of business will result in an injury, but it can. Slipping and falling is a type of accident that is incredibly common and happens every day. Although not always, the causes of a slip and fall accident are usually avoidable. When an accident and potential for injury can be avoided, it should be. Fortunately, the law recognizes this concept. Storeowners have a legal responsibility to do what he or she can to make sure you have a safe experience when you visit their store.
Whether it was a minor spill or a pipe leak, there are a number of ways someone can be injured by slipping in a store. Even minor slips may lead to major injuries with long-lasting side effects. If you believe you have a claim against a store, you do not have to go up against them alone. Having an experienced attorney can ease the process of filing a claim and can help you seek the compensation you may be entitled to.
When is a Store Liable for Slip and Fall Accidents?
If you slip and fall in a store, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries based on the circumstances of the accident such as where you were, how the accident happened, and what role you played in the accident.
If you are at a business such as a store, you are known as an invitee. This simply means that you have technically been “invited” onto this type of property. Although a storeowner hasn’t sent you an official invitation to come shop that day, you have an implied invitation to be there. This is because both you and the store are enjoying a mutual benefit from you choosing to shop there. You get to buy the items you want, and the store gets paid.
In an invitee relationship, the store employees and owners have a duty to check their store for any hazards. If they find anything that could be hazardous, they have a legal obligation to clean it up or to make sure you know about it. This could be as simple as putting out a wet floor sign. In the event that an employee of a store becomes aware of a particular hazard that could cause customers harm, and they choose to do nothing about it, they have breached their legal obligation to keep their premises safe. This breach puts them in a position to possibly be liable to you for your injuries.
When is a Store not Liable?
There are a few reasons why a store would not be liable for your injuries if you slip and fall while in their store. The most simple of these reasons is if they didn’t know about the hazard that caused you to slip. Although it may seem unlikely, it is possible for store employees to be diligent about checking for hazards and still ultimately end up not knowing about one. If they didn’t know of a hazard and took the proper steps to inspect their property for hazards, you likely won’t be able to prove they were negligent. However, it is their burden to ultimately prove that they took the necessary steps to keep their store safe, yet still didn’t know a hazard existed.
The second way a store may be able to escape liability is by showing that even though they knew of a hazard, they warned their customers about it. For example, if you are hastily moving through an aisle with a wet floor sign and slip, it may be determined that a store took all the precautions they needed to in order to warn you. However, ultimately, what level of warning is warranted is dependent on the hazard itself.
The second scenario stated above leads to an important point. If your injury was caused by your own actions, such as failing to observe a store's wet floor warning to you, this may affect your ability to seek recovery. In some states, there is a system where your amount of recoverable damages is reduced by the percentage in which you were responsible for your accident. If your slip and fall is determined to be completely your fault, then you may be barred from seeking recovery.
Common Slip and Fall Claims
There are a few different types of claims that can arise from a slip and fall accident. A few of the common claims are as follows:
- Slipping on an oily or greasy substance: In a grocery store particularly, maybe someone has spilled some type of oil. The store has a duty to check for hazards like this and clean it up before you slip and hurt yourself.
- Slipping on a wet floor: There are many different situations that may cause water to be on the floor of a store. Maybe a pipe has burst, maybe someone spilled something, or maybe there is a ceiling leak on a rainy day. No matter the reason, the store has a duty to check for this type of hazard.
- Slipping on a workplace hazard: A workplace hazard could include a lot of different things. For example, maybe a drink station is overflowing, or there is debris on the floor. Slips don’t always have to be caused by something wet.
How to File a Claim
If you have been injured by slipping and falling in a store, here are the steps you can take in order to file a slip and fall claim:
1. Seek medical treatment:
Always seek medical treatment after suffering any type of injury, no matter how minor. Receiving medical treatment not only ensures you are taking care of yourself, but it can also serve as important documentation of your injuries to help support your claim.
2. Speak with an attorney
Try and contact an attorney with experience in slip and fall cases as soon as possible. Our attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help! Call us today to receive a 100% free case evaluation.
3. Open an insurance claim
Contact your insurance provider and the insurance representing the store to let them know you plan to file a claim. An attorney is able to open a claim on behalf of their client.
It is common that the store or responsible party may reach out to you to extend an offer of settlement. Settlement offers are an attempt for all parties to resolve the issue without having to go to trial. If the amount of money in the settlement offer doesn’t feel appropriate to you, you can choose to decline it or negotiate it further. Attorneys decide which route to take that best suits their clients’ needs in the situation.
5. File a lawsuit
If you choose to decline an initial settlement offer, you may decide to move forward and file a lawsuit. After filing a lawsuit, the opposing party may still try to reach a settlement with you, however, you may have the option to continue to decline and go to trial.
Ultimately, in order to establish a store's liability in your slip and fall case, you need to be able to show that the store and its employees were negligent. Each store has a legal obligation to warn their customers of known dangers and to take reasonable steps to check for the danger that may be initially unknown to them. If they fail to meet that obligation in any way, a court may determine the store was negligent.
The following is a check-list you can use to help determine if a store was liable for your slip and fall injury or not:
- Did the store staff know about the hazard that you slipped on?
- Was the hazard there long enough that an employee of the store could have either cleaned up the hazard or taken steps to warn you of it?
- Did the store have a policy to require its employees to check for hazards in the store routinely?
- Were there any warnings of potential hazards in the store?
- Were you being careful as you were shopping in the store?
- Were you keeping an eye out for any potential warnings of danger?
When you have a personal injury claim such as a slip and fall, there is the potential to seek recovery for two different types of damages. You may be able to seek economic damages and non-economic damages for your injury. Economic damages cover bills that are easily quantified with a set amount of money. This includes things such as medical bills, lost wages, and other incidentals like gas money for driving to and from doctor’s appointments. Non-economic damages are based on the impact the injury is going to have on your life going forward, and are therefore less concrete. These types of damages generally cover things such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment of life.
Statute of Limitations
Every state has what they refer to as the statute of limitations on certain types of legal claims. This law places a time limit in which you are permitted to file a lawsuit for a certain type of claim. If you choose to wait until after the permitted time period, you may be barred from seeking recovery. A lot of states place a two-year time limit on filing a personal injury claim, but it is important to know that this could be different in your state. The best way to know the statute of limitations on your slip and fall claim where you live is to either speak with your attorney or even conduct a simple Google search.
Slip and fall cases involving children are a little different. While this could differ depending on your state, the clock usually doesn’t start running on a child’s slip and fall case until they turn 18.
The statute of limitations may also be affected in the event that a death has occurred as the result of a slip and fall accident. The statute of limitations for a wrongful death case begins once the party bringing the suit has discovered, or should have discovered with reasonable diligence, the cause of death of the victim.
Our Premises Liability Attorneys Are Here To Help
Our slip and fall accident lawyers can help you understand the law. There are many factors to consider, such as previous complaints about an existing hazard, determining the negligence of a business or property owner, and determining negligence, if any, of the individual injured.
These are only a few of the factors that we analyze when investigating as case. Contact Zinda Law Group at 888-449-1160 for a free consultation regarding your slip and fall or premises liability case. As one of our clients, you will pay nothing unless we win your case.
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