One moment you were shopping, the next you're lying on the ground agonizing in pain. Unbeknownst to you, there was liquid spillage on the floor which caused you to slip and fall. (Sustaining injuries.)
As you lay there in pain with bruises and a bruised ego, you can't help but feel anxious about the anticipated medical bills. (It's worse if you're in no condition to work or care for yourself.)
So what next? What should you do if you are injured in a store?
There are several actions you can take if you've been injured in retail store premises in New York. But first, you should assess the severity of your injuries and obtain the necessary medical help. If you've sustained severe injuries enough to incur income losses, extensive medical expenses, and other damages, you may be entitled to compensation.
This article details some of the proactive steps you can take to build your case relating to your injury.
Is the store liable for a customer injury?
Retailers are legally obligated to keep their premises safe for anyone there to conduct legal business with the store. That includes shoppers, contractors, delivery drivers, wholesalers, store employees, etc.
In other words, the property owner has a duty of care to the store's invitees and should do everything possible to avoid anyone getting injured or hurt while on their premises.
If the store neglects its duty of care (otherwise known as Retail Store Negligence) and an accident occurs, the store may be liable for the resulting injuries and damages.
Hazards in retail stores can lead to serious injury
It's essential to note that the store premises go beyond the main retail spaces, such as checkout lanes, aisles, and the merchandise display area. To include restrooms, dressing rooms, access walkways, parking lots, etc.
In cases of shared retail premises, say, multiple retailers, providing shared walkways and parking lots. The shared infrastructure surrounding the retail zone is often a responsibility of a collective body or a particular company. In which case, the duty of care extends to this body or company—obligating it to keep the shared premises safe for all.
Causes of retail store negligence injuries
There is no limit to the type of accident that can result from store negligence. However, some negligent acts are more common than others. They include:
Wet floors (or liquids spilled on store floors) that are not cleaned up right away or signed as a potential hazard
Debris and other unsafe materials on the floor (can cause trip or fall accident)
Merchandise falling from a stack or overhead shelving
Sharp or jagged shelving and showcasing
Missing or broken handrails on passageways or stairways
Malfunctioning escalators and elevators
Malfunctioning shopping carts
Poor lighting in stairwells and parking lots
Icy or poorly maintained walkways
Overcrowded retail spaces, etc.
9 steps you should take if you get hurt at a store
Most retail accidents occur as a result of store negligence/dangerous conditions in the store. If you find yourself in such a situation, here's what you should do.
Step 1: Assess your injuries
If you can, assess the severity of your injuries. Call for help if feeling pain and take note of any dizziness or pain resulting from movement. Bear in mind that some injuries can be worsened by excessive or vigorous movement. So if you feel okay walking and moving around, do so carefully.
If you have sustained severe injuries like dislocated joints or broken bones, call 911 for immediate medical assistance.
Step 2: Avoid saying you're “fine” after the accident
Resist the urge to hop up and declare you're 'fine' after a fall injury.
Embarrassment and adrenaline may combine into a powerful force prompting you to mask or understate the severity of the sustained injuries, but don't.
Don't say you're unhurt or fine.
Keep in mind that it's hard to gauge the actual severity of the sustained injuries without medical help. And if your injuries ultimately call for compensation, saying you're fine may provide a ground for the store or its insurer to deny liability for your injuries and damages.
Thus, keep any details about your injuries to yourself and only report them to your doctor.
Step 3: Consider liability
Once you've assessed your injuries and obtained immediate medical help as needed, it's time to consider liability.
Take a moment and evaluate whether the accident was a result of a minor inconvenience or the store's negligence of unsafe conditions.
What hazards caused the accident? And could they have been prevented by the store management? If you believe that the store had a chance to prevent the accident but didn't, then they may be liable for your personal injury case. Even if you are partially at fault, the property owner may still be liable to some extent.
As such, it's best to engage a skilled premises liability attorney to determine whether you're eligible to pursue legal action.
Step 4: Gather evidence
If you can and safely collect details about your accident, do so. Enlist the help of other shoppers if needed.
To thoroughly document your accident:
Take photos of the scene of the accident
For example, if the floor was defective, take images of the floor, spills, cords, objects on the ground, or any other factor that led to the accident.
Be sure to document the size, shape, and texture of the causal factor. In this case, the substance that caused you to slip and fall.
(Often, if the substance indicates multiple footprints or spreads over a wide area, you can infer that the hazardous substance was there for a while. In that case, the store manager should have seen and removed it before it caused an accident.)
While documenting the size of the causal factor, note if the store owner had attempted to remove the hazardous substance or placed a warning sign near the affected area.
Pro-tip: Take the photos from different angles and perspectives, such as ground-level perspective, eye-level perspective, close to the scene, further from the scene, and so on.
Get the contact information of all the witnesses
If there are any witnesses to the accident, try to gather their names and contact information. Even if the person didn't witness the accident happen, they might testify to the presence of the hazardous substance that caused the accident.
If you cannot obtain the witnesses' information, note down their physical features. Our team of premises liability lawyers may contact them later on to get a statement.
Obtain videos and photos from others, if possible
If other shoppers caught the accident on their phones, request a copy of the captured footage. While at it, find out if your accident was caught on the store's CCTV camera. And obtain a copy of that too.
Document the store management, including the employees
If the store management fails to provide their names and contact details, document their photos or physical description.
(If you're too severely injured to document the evidence, ask for help.)
Step 5: File an accident/incident report with the store
Notify the store management about the accident if they're not already aware.
If safe to do so, request the store manager to document the accident. Give a detailed account of what happened but only stick to the facts. Don't answer any leading questions or speculate anything.
When done, go over the report and request a copy of the same.
If the store management asks you to sign any document, don't until you've read and understood what it means.
Step 6: Get medical help
Even if you've suffered minor injuries, schedule an appointment with a medical care professional right after the accident. The goal here is to ensure you're in good health after the accident.
Note, head and other injuries may not show signs immediately, hence why you should see a doctor right away to rule out or diagnose any hidden injuries—and treat them before they worsen.
(Seeking medical attention also helps generate a medical report that can support your claims or lawsuit.)
Step 7: Don't talk to the claim adjuster (redirect them to the store incident report)
You can expect a call from a claim adjuster soon after the accident. The call can also be from the store's insurance company or an investigator working on behalf of the insurance carrier.
Regardless of the caller, stick to the following rules when on the call.
Don't agree to give any recorded statements or sign any documents
Don't discuss any details of the accident, your injuries, or damages without consulting a premises liability attorney
Don't accept any settlement offer without consulting a skilled personal injury lawyer
Step 8: Consider retaining a personal injury attorney
If you've sustained serious injuries that require hefty compensation, you're better off hiring an experienced personal injury attorney. (Injuries such as laceration, brain injury, bone fracture, and birth complications.)
Retail stores and their insurers are well aware of the reputation and financial damage resulting from serious injury claims. They will, therefore, try to reduce or refuse their liability.
Having a skilled attorney improves the odds of receiving fair compensation for your damages and injuries.
The lawyer can assess the strength of your case based on the collected evidence. They can also determine the likelihood of proving the store's liability. And anticipate the methods the defendant is likely to use against you—and employ proven strategies to counter such moves.
Step 9: File a claim for retail store negligence
A premises liability attorney can help you gather all the documents essential for your legal case or insurance claim. Think of:
Store incident report
Witness contact details and statements
Evidence collected at the store
Store insurance information
Relevant medical reports
Receipts for out-of-the-pocket expenses
Proof of lost wages
Then proceed to file a claim on your behalf, leaving you more time to focus on recovery.
What is the Statute of Limitations for store injuries in New York?
If injured in a store in New York, you must abide by the state's statute of limitations. That is the timeframe by which you have to file a legal claim against the negligent store. This time limit is usually three years from the date of the accident.
If you wait more than three years to file a claim, you're likely to be barred from suing the negligent party (grocery store.)
How much is my store injury case worth?
How much your store injury case is worth depends on several factors, including:
Proof of store's negligence and liability
Type and severity of the sustained injuries
Types and extensiveness of the resulting damages (including lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, medical bills, damaged clothes and other personal items, bruised ego, pain, and suffering)
Injured at a store in New York? Call Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm today.
Store-related injuries can turn your life upside-down instantly. So what to do if you are injured in a store?
As discussed here, you should first assess the severity of your injuries and obtain the necessary medical help. Then you can proceed to determine the liability and gather the relevant evidence to support your insurance claim or legal case—if it comes to that.
Seeing that retailers and their insurance providers can reduce or refuse liability in cases of serious injuries, it's best to retain an experienced premises liability attorney. Contact an attorney experienced in handling such cases, a lawyer who can determine the strength of your insurance claim based on the evidence, and offer legal advice.
You also want a lawyer familiar with the tactics used to displace blame and proven strategies to counter such tactics.
At Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, we have a team of experienced, professional, yet friendly premises liability attorneys. Lawyers who are well poised to help you navigate this potentially complex situation. And ensure you get full and fair compensation for your injuries and damages.
Talk to an experienced attorney on your first call, get a free consultation, and only worry about lawyer's fees when we win your case.
If you or a loved one have been injured and have questions about your legal options, contact Raphaelson & Levine today. Our personal injury lawyers have helped thousands of New Yorkers understand their next steps following a serious injury.
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Established in New York, NY, his personal injury law firm has obtained numerous million-dollar verdicts. With over twenty-five years of experience as a personal injury attorney, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).