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Slips and Falls in Retail Stores

Falls are the most common reason people visit an emergency room. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls account for more than 8 million emergency room visits annually, making up 21.3% of overall visits. Slips and causing falls account for more than 1 million visits (12% of total falls).

Slip and falls can lead to minor or major injuries, or even death. If a frail senior citizen slips and falls, they may not survive the incident. At the very least, a healthy person could injure their back or another part of their body. Some people may suffer fractures or hurt their heads, even to the extent of permanent brain damage.

A retail store may be at fault for a slip and fall accident, or maybe a customer is to blame. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. It all depends on the circumstances, including whether or not there was negligence and what the customer was doing at the time of the incident.

 Slip and Falls in Retail Stores

The reality is that slip and fall accidents happen all the time in retail stores, crowded, busy places. Slip and falls may occur when:

  • A janitor mops a floor and forgets to put up a “Wet Floor” sign
  • There is a prominent bump in carpet
  • The store does not have proper lighting
  • A customer is on their cell phone when walking through the store
  • Customers are talking to one another and failing to see their surroundings
  • Merchandise falls off a shelf and onto the floor
  • Merchandise gets on the floor while an employee is stocking a shelf
  • Employees are not vigilant about a spill caused by a customer
  • Employees cause the slippery conditions
  • A piece of the ceiling falls
  • Ice, snow, or slippery substances are on the walkway leading up to the store

Even as retail store procedures change in light of COVID-19 and stores may be less crowded, slip and falls may still occur.

Retail stores have always required constant checking, inspection, sanitation and cleaning; and customers may be more susceptible to slipping on wet floors, for instance. They may also trip over vacuums, brooms and mop buckets. Perhaps they are distracted by signs or promotions and they forget (or are unable to) watch where they’re stepping, resulting in a fall.

What Happens After a Slip and Fall?

 If a customer slips and falls in a retail store, the first thing to do is get help.  Take pictures and record details of the incident, if well enough to do so. Take down witness’ contact information in case it’s needed down the line. Check to see if there are any cameras around to capture what happened.  File an incident report with the store manager.  Look for evidence that the condition had existed long enough to give the store the opportunity to clean it up before the fall.  Do not expect store personnel to support a possible claim.

The injured party needs to then get medical treatment as soon as possible. Inform your doctor of any and all pain or injuries sustained, even if it’s just a bruise or pain in the neck, back, knee, or limb(s).  Getting an X-ray, CT scan, or even MRI,  may be required to ensure adequate diagnosis and treatment.

After that initial appointment, the doctor may recommend further treatment.  Make sure to follow up.  It is important.

The Costs of a Slip and Fall Incident – The costs of a slip and fall incident vary depending on how severe the fall was, what kind of treatment is required and how long treatment will be required.  Surgery may be recommended.

Additionally, there are costs that aren’t so obvious, such as the loss of income and time loss from work, even if self-employed.  These costs need to be factored into the equation for the future as well as the past.

Who Is Responsible for Slips and Falls in Retail Stores? – There are a few different parties who may be responsible for slips and falls in retail stores including the person who is injured, the store, the landlord of the property, an employee, or somebody else.

In order to show that a store, landlord, employees or anyone else associated with the store is responsible, there has to be solid evidence of negligence. The injured party usually has to be able to prove that there was a dangerous hazard in the store, the store/property owner (landlord) knew about it (or would have known about it if they were responsible), the store/property owner didn’t assess the situation adequately, and their failure to do something about it led to the injury.

It can be difficult to prove that the property owner knew about a hazard that existed and didn’t do anything about it. There may have been an obvious danger, and the property owner didn’t take care of it.  For example, maybe the property owner did not require employees to put down a “Wet Floor” sign, or they never did regular walk-throughs of the aisles to see if objects had fallen. Perhaps they didn’t train employees on how to properly stock the shelves without putting merchandise on the ground in a hazardous way.  Maybe a water or other line was leaking, or the floor was wet from overspray in the produce section.

If however, another customer drops a piece of slippery merchandise on the floor, and you slip on it 30 seconds later, the store may not be held responsible for that since it’s not a long enough time to charge the store for failure to take care of the fallen object. If, though, the slippery object was left there a long time without being picked up, you might have a case.

Get in Touch With a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you choose to look into possible legal action against the store and/or property owner after a slip and fall incident, you should get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you. They will know what to do with the evidence collected and may be able to help you with treatment while you’re waiting for a settlement or for the case to go to court. With most personal injury attorneys, you won’t owe them anything unless they win your case for you.

If you want to look into a possible slip and fall claim, then call the personal injury attorneys at Heiting & Irwin at 951-682-6400, or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation. We can work to get you the treatment and compensation you deserve in your slip and fall case and ensure that you are on the road to recovery as soon as possible.

James Heiting

The only past President of the State Bar of California ever elected from the Inland Empire, James Heiting handles civil litigation matters throughout California, recovering over $400 million for clients, dealing with wrongful death, serious injury, professional malpractice and transportation accidents. Also past President of Riverside’s County Bar, his firm has served the Inland Empire for over 30 years. View Attorney James Otto Heiting's Attorney Bio Here.

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