Many people shop at big box stores like Walmart, Target, Home Depot, Best Buy, Lowe’s Hardware, and others. When you shop at one of these types of stores, you shouldn’t have to worry about being seriously injured by dangerous conditions on the property. Unfortunately, employees, managers, and owners of big box stores sometimes fail to inspect their properties and identify dangers that could result in serious and foreseeable injuries to their customers.
If you were seriously injured in a big box store in California because of the negligence of the employees or manager, you might be entitled to pursue compensation through a premises liability claim. Since big box stores are large corporations, filing claims against them can be incredibly complex. Getting help from an experienced injury attorney at the Steven M. Sweat, Injury Lawyers, APC might help you to even the playing field and increase your chances of success. There are several things that you should do to document what happened following your injuries while shopping at a big box store discussed below.
Understanding Premises Liability and the Duty Owed by Big Box Stores
Big box stores in California owe a duty of care to maintain their properties in reasonably safe and hazard-free conditions. They owe this duty to their customers and others who are lawfully present on the premises to prevent them from suffering foreseeable injuries. The duty of care is the legal responsibility big box stores owe to their customers and others, including their employees, delivery drivers, shoppers, contractors, wholesalers, and anyone else who legally enters the store.
Big box stores must do everything they reasonably can to prevent people from being injured on their property. For example, a big box store should conduct routine inspections to identify any hazards, warn people who are present of the dangers, and promptly correct or repair them. When a store owner or operator fails in this duty, the store might be liable to pay damages to someone who is injured because of the store’s negligence. A big box store might be liable to pay damages to you for your accident-related medical bills, wage losses, pain and suffering, and more through a premises liability claim.
Common Causes of Big Box Store Accidents
Some of the common causes of big box store accidents include the following:
- Water pooling on the floor because of tracked-in rain
- Spills that haven’t been promptly cleaned
- Garbage or other debris on the floor
- Recently polished or mopped floors without warning signs
- Poorly maintained sidewalks or parking lots
- Slippery or torn floor mats
- Loose floor tiles
- Poorly designed or broken stairs and railings
- Improperly stacked merchandise that falls from shelves
- Clutter left by employees in the aisles
- Forklift accidents
Types of Injuries That Can Occur in Big Box Store Accidents
Some of the types of injuries that you might suffer in a big box store include the following:
- Bone fractures
- Neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Skull fractures
- Spinal cord injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Back injuries
- Internal bleeding
Steps to Take After Being Injured in a Big Box Store
If you were injured in a big box store because of the negligence of an employee or manager, you should take the following steps to document what happened and show that your injuries were caused by the store’s negligence.
- Report What Happened to the Store Manager
You should immediately notify a store manager about what happened to you. If you are with someone else, ask them to go to find the manager. If you are shopping alone and cannot summon the manager, ask a bystander to do so for you. Do not leave the store without making sure the manager has completed an incident report, and request a copy of it.
- Call 911
You should consider calling 911 from the store to call for an ambulance. Taking an ambulance from the scene to the hospital can help you to document the time and location of when and where you were injured. Even if you initially don’t believe that your injuries are serious, you should still seek immediate medical attention. Some injuries have delayed symptoms, and getting prompt medical care can help you to recover faster and demonstrate that your injuries were caused by your big box store accident.
- Do Not Say Too Much About Your Injuries
Immediately after your incident, you might experience a rush of adrenaline that can mask your injuries. When you are speaking to the manager, do not say that you are fine or uninjured. Once the adrenaline subsides, you might begin experiencing pain and other symptoms. If witnesses or employees overhear you saying that you are fine, they can testify about that in your case and reduce your chances of recovering full compensation. If you are asked about being injured, simply say that you need to see a doctor.
- Ask for the Names and Contact Information of Any Witnesses
If bystanders witnessed what happened, ask them to give you their names and contact information, including their phone numbers, street addresses, and email addresses. Since witnesses are considered to be neutral, their testimony can help establish the store’s fault.
- Take Photographs of the Scene
If you can, use your smartphone to take plenty of pictures of the scene where you were injured as well as your injuries themselves. If you see a dangerous condition that caused your injuries, take pictures of it. For example, if you tripped over a cord or slipped in puddled water, take pictures of it. If you were struck by merchandise falling from the shelves, take photos of both the fallen objects and the shelves from which they fell. Also, take pictures of any store security cameras you see in the area in which you fell so that your lawyer can ask for video footage of the incident.
- Consult an Attorney
While you are not required to retain an attorney after your accident in a big box store, it is a good idea for you to do so. Big box stores are large corporations with teams of defense lawyers. When someone is injured, they aggressively defend against claims. Trying to fight against a team of skilled defense lawyers without legal help can be difficult. An attorney who is experienced in handling claims against big box stores might help to level the playing field and increase your chances of prevailing in your claim. Consultations are free, and a lawyer can evaluate your case and explain whether it is merited. If it is, your lawyer can conduct a thorough investigation to help you document and support your claim.
An attorney might interview witnesses, take steps to secure video and other types of evidence, check maintenance and inspection logs and do other things to strengthen your liability claim. By building a strong foundation, your attorney will be in a better position to negotiate with the store and its insurance company to try to secure a full and favorable settlement agreement. If the store refuses to settle your claim, your attorney should be prepared to fight for you at a trial before a jury or judge.
Common Defenses Big Box Stores Raise Against Injury Claims
Some of the common types of defenses big box stores raise against injury claims are discussed below.
Assumption of the Risk/Open and Obvious Hazard
While big-box stores must maintain their properties in a safe condition, shoppers must avoid open and obvious hazards. An insurance company might argue that you saw the hazard, understood its dangers, and still exposed yourself to it. Stores might argue that reasonable visitors would have recognized the danger and taken steps to avoid it.
California recognizes pure comparative fault. Under this system, being partially at fault will not prevent you from recovering compensation, but your award will be reduced by your percentage of liability. When a big box store asserts comparative negligence as a defense, it will try to assign full or partial responsibility to you for the accident’s cause. If successful, this could result in a significant reduction in your total recovery amount.
Many insurance companies and big box stores try to argue that the victims’ injuries were pre-existing and caused by an earlier incident instead of the dangerous conditions on their properties. This type of defense might be asserted to try to substantially reduce the amount of your damages award.
Injuries Not as Serious as Claimed
Big box stores also sometimes argue that the victims’ injuries are not as severe as they claim. Your attorney can use your medical records and testimony from experts to counter this type of defense.
Get Help from an Experienced Injury Lawyer
If you have been injured in a big box store accident caused by an employee’s or manager’s negligence, you should speak to an experienced premises liability attorney. Contact the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Injury Lawyers, APC today for a free consultation at 1-866-966-5240.