Slip and Fall in a Big Box Store
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UPDATED: Jun 19, 2018
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If you are injured in a slip and fall accident at a big box store such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot, the business may be liable for the injuries that you suffer. Every business has a legal responsibility to its customers to keep them safe from injuries, and are financially liable when safety standards are not met and customers are harmed. The legal responsibility to keep customers safe does not mean that slip and falls at Wal-Mart or other big box stores will always result in a successful injury claim, however, as large businesses are well prepared with experienced attorneys who are well practiced at defending lawsuits. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident at a grocery store, Target, or another big box store you should consider consulting an experienced attorney before taking any insurance or legal action.
NOTE: Everything you say and do after a slip and fall injury at a large business can influence the settlement you receive. You are well served by avoiding any contact regarding the injury with anyone, including family or friends and especially insurance adjusters or store employees, until you have consulted an attorney.
Proving Slip and Fall Fault
In any slip and fall injury claim, the injured party must be able to demonstrate the defendant was at fault for the injuries suffered by proving the accident was caused by a hazardous condition that the store should have been aware of. The decisions about whether or not the condition that caused the slip and fall accident is considered hazardous, and whether the store should have known, can vary due to factors beyond your control, however, you can help yourself by quickly gathering evidence. After your slip and fall accident in a store, it is a good idea to record everything that happened immediately while it is fresh in your mind by:
- Taking photos of the area
- Noting, and taking photos of, warning signs, conditions of the floor, conditions of the products or aisles near you, and any other factor that contributed to the slip and fall
- Getting names and contact information of witnesses to the incident
- Taking names of every store employee who spoke to you
- Writing down the facts as soon as you have an opportunity to do so
Representatives and employees from the big box store will not help you on this matter – you will need to take matters into your own hands when gathering the evidence necessary to prove the business was at fault for your slip and fall accident.
NOTE: You may be required to fill out a slip and fall report form or contact a claims department in the store in order to officially put the business on notice that the incident occurred. If you must file notice of the accident immediately, saying things like “I’m fine” or “it is not a big deal” could jeopardize your claim – simply giving the facts of the accident is sufficient. You are free to request time to contact an attorney before taking further action.
Common Slip and Fall Accident Causes
While every slip and fall accident in a store has unique circumstances, there are some common causes to slip and fall injuries that may indicate the big business is at fault:
- Wet floors
- Uneven flooring
- Broken shelving
- Dangerous items hanging from shelves or ceilings
- Floor lights
- Loose rugs or carpeting
- Ice buildup in parking lot or near store entrance
Most accidents are caused by one of the factors listed above, or some slight deviation of them. If you have suffered a slip and fall in a store, note the cause and gather evidence supporting your claim.
Parking Lot Injuries
A large store such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot can be legally responsible for a slip and fall injury that occurs in the parking lot just as it can the interior of the store. As with any claim, you will need to prove the business was negligent by demonstrating the injury was caused by a hazardous condition the store knew, or should have known, about.
For example, if you slip and fall on a patch of ice outside of Safeway, your ability to recover injury damages will depend on whether or not store employees knew about the ice or should have known about it given the weather and the conditions where customers are likely to walk. If the injury occurred first thing in the morning before store employees had a reasonable opportunity to prevent the accident, then the store may not be liable. If the accident happened after several customers had complained or noted the presence of ice, then the store faces legal responsibility for the injuries.
Liability for slip and fall accidents in a parking lot depends on the same legal factors as accidents that occur in the store – the only change is the factual circumstances that drive the conclusion.
Hiring an Attorney
Big box stores such as Home Depot and Wal-Mart are experienced at defending slip and fall lawsuits, and have been known to take an aggressive stance in proving the store is not at fault. Wal-Mart especially is notorious for defending slip and fall lawsuits in court, and the company has stated that it prides itself in rigorously fighting slip and fall liability accusations. This does not mean that Wal-Mart, or other large stores, fight dirty or bend legal rules – it simply means they are well prepared and well practiced at defending slip and fall lawsuits.
With the possibility of an aggressive defense to your lawsuit a likelihood, you are well served by consulting with an experienced slip and fall attorney before taking any legal action. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, and work on a contingency fee – meaning they do not get paid unless you win a judgment or receive a settlement.
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