I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!
Premises Liability Part 2
In Part 1 we discussed the "slip and fall" accident, the most common type of accident customers have in a public space such as a store or restaurant. In Part 2 we will cover some other scenarios where customers are likely to have an accident or injury.
Store Entries - One way that customers are injured at the entrance of a store is by defective sliding doors. The doors can close too soon, striking the customer, or can fail to open, causing someone to run into them. These situations, unfortunately, most often cause injury to more fragile customers such as the disabled and elderly.
It is important to obtain any surveillance video of the area, which will often show the accident taking place, or provide evidence of the defect. It's also important to obtain the service and maintenance records of the doors, to prove that they were (a) regularly maintained or (b) had a defect that was not repaired correctly, if at all. A skilled attorney can help clients win cases related to sliding door defects.
Mats and Carpets - Another common injury comes from tripping over a carpet or mat at the entrance or elsewhere in the store. As part of a regular store check, or sweep, employees should be checking to make sure that mats are flat and in the right position. If a mat is in an employee's view, such as near a customer service desk or near a security guard post, then those employees also have a duty to keep an eye on the mat and make sure it is in safe condition.
An attorney can help you win a trip and fall case involving a floor mat. Again, surveillance video will show the condition of the mat just before the accident. It will show whether employees should have or could have seen any problems with the mat, and fixed them before the fall. It will show whether employees were regularly checking the mat as part of their floor sweep. Finally, an attorney can request records from the mat vendor, to see if the mat was delivered recently, and had a crease or fold that had not "worked itself out" after delivery.
Employee Acts - Store employees have a duty to do their work in a safe manner. However, sometimes they make a mistake or behave carelessly. Some common accidents caused by employee actions are:
striking a customer with a cart or other equipment
stacking merchandise unsafely so that it falls when a customer shops the display
leaving an item on the floor, creating a trip hazard
items falling off a cart onto a customer
In these situations it's important to get the name of the responsible employee, and also to takeany photos, especially of a fallen display. Surveillance video is of the utmost importance in these situations, as the store will often try to shift blame to the customer, claiming that s/he took an item from the center of a display, causing it to fall.
Weather Related Conditions - Wet weather in particular, creates additional hazards in a store environment. Most common is moisture that is tracked in from outside. A business has a duty to conduct regular floor maintenance and this becomes doubly important in times of rain or snow.
Another common situation is roof leaks or drips. We have all seen buckets scattered around a store with a leaky roof, usually with some kind of warning sign. But sometimes there is no bucket, or the bucket has over flowed. Or there is no warning sign. Or the water has splashed out of the bucket onto the floor.
Defective or Dangerous Equipment - A store or restaurant has a duty to keep their premises and equipment in safe condition. Anything that is used by customers should be regularly inspected for damage or hazards. Some examples of dangerous conditions are:
a shopping cart that has been damaged, resulting in sharp, exposed metal
a restaurant chair that has become wobbly
an entry door that slams abruptly and without warning
exposed metal edges on shelving or displays
What should you do if you are injured in one of these scenarios? Below is good advice for any incident which happens on store premises.
The most important thing you can do right away is get photos! If you slipped on water tracked in from outside, or tripped over a mat, make sure to take pictures that show the size of the wet area, or the rumpled mat. If you are hurt by a piece of equipment be sure your photos show the defect. This is especially true because the equipment will most likely be thrown away. Your pictures may be the only permanent evidence of its condition.
Notify an employee right away that you fell. Pay attention to anything the employee says, especially if he or she admits they knew of the hazard or caused it. Get the name of anyone who has information about the hazard, as well as any helpful witnesses. The store manager may ask you to fill out an accident report, which creates a record of the incident. At that time, report any injuries or suspected injuries. Even if you feel OK at the scene keep in mind that injuries do not always show up right away.
You may get called by an adjuster for the store's insurance company. It is their job to investigate the claim and find ways to defend the store against it. In other words, find a basis to deny the claim. They will also look for ways to place some of the fault on you, the injured party. So it's important that you consult an attorney before giving any statement to an insurance company.
Get Medical Attention
You might feel OK at the scene but it's not unusual for injuries to arise later, when the stress of the accident has worn off. If you are hurt, do not hesitate to see a doctor. Let your attorney know right away about any medical attention you receive.
Call An Attorney
Premises liability is a tricky area of the law. Typically a business and its insurance company will look for any defense to not pay your injury claim. This is where an experienced attorney can fight for you so you get the compensation you deserve. And it's important you contact an attorney as soon as possible. Evidence, such as surveillance or maintenance records, may be lost if you wait too long. Be sure to call the Sellers Law Office for prompt help with your slip and fall case!