What To Do When You Slip and Fall in a Store Staff Profile Picture
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Everyone falls from time to time, whether it is because of slipping on wet flooring or tripping over an object. A recent study by The National Safety Council estimates that 6.8 million people visited the ER in 2020 because of fall injuries. In addition, according to the Center for Disease Control, one out of five falls results in a severe injury, such as a broken bone or head injury.

Retail spaces, markets, restaurants, and other stores have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of their customers and prevent any falls or injuries. Despite their best efforts, accidents can still happen. Nevertheless, there are certain measures you can take to address the immediate concern and prioritize your well-being in the long run.

What To Do at the Store

Slipping and falling in a store can be disorienting. You may feel pain, confusion, and uncertainty after experiencing a fall. The best thing you can do for yourself is to stay as calm as possible, document the process, and seek medical attention. 

Stay There

Do not leave! Even if you feel fine at the moment or want to walk off the embarrassment of the fall, do not leave the scene of the accident before reporting it to a manager or senior employee. Leaving the scene of the accident makes reporting injuries or insurance claims difficult in the future. It is better to document the situation as thoroughly as possible while you are still in the store than to realize later you cannot file an insurance claim or lawsuit because you left the scene too soon.

Do Not Admit Fault

Never admit the fall was your fault. By saying it was your fault, whether it was or not, you admit there was no direct act of negligence on the store’s part. Even saying something as innocent as “I’m so clumsy,” “I fall a lot,” “That was totally me,” or “I’m always tripping over my own feet” should be avoided. Phrases as innocuous as these may reduce tension in the moment and make you and the people around you feel more comfortable. However, by taking responsibility for the accident (however casually), you could be misinterpreted as relieving the store of their negligence. If the store can prove you took responsibility for the fall, they may claim they were not liable for your injuries and should not have to pay any damages.

Find a Manager

Find a manager, or if you are not able to find a manager, find a senior employee. If your injuries are minor, the manager will be able to provide first aid and will fill out an incident report. An incident report should include the following:

  • Basic information like the date and time of the fall

  • The cause of the fall (a tripping hazard like boxes or a cart, loose flooring, water or another liquid, a pothole, a damaged or missing handrail, etc.)

  • Your current condition

If you are seriously injured or unable to move after your fall, the manager will call emergency services for you. EMTs or emergency room staff will make a note of your injuries and provide care. 

Document the Process

If your injuries do not require immediate hospitalization, document the incident. Take photos of your injuries. Take photos of the scene, including the reason you fell, like puddles, loose flooring, low visibility due to poor lighting, damaged handrails, parking lot potholes, obstructed walkways, etc. You may need to prove later that the business owner or property owner was negligent in caring for their facility and that negligence directly led to your fall. Also, take photos or make note of any warning signs or cones drawing customers’ attention to the danger. Finally, take photos and note surveillance cameras covering the area where you fell.

If there were witnesses to the fall, ask for their names and contact information and if they are willing to briefly write down what they saw. Also, get a copy of the incident report for your own records. Make sure the store’s information is in the incident report, as well as the name of the manager who helped you. If the company’s policy is not to make copies of incident reports for anyone outside of the company, take your own notes.

What To Do After Leaving the Store

It’s possible you’ll feel fine after your fall, and you won’t need any medical attention. Or, if you are not seriously injured, a manager or store employee may be able to help patch up minor cuts and bruises. But if you are seriously injured during your fall, the store manager should call 911, and EMTs will either treat you at the scene or take you to the nearest hospital for further care. 

If You Are Uninjured

If you are uninjured or less seriously injured, EMTs or the store manager may offer treatment at the scene and suggest you see a doctor in the immediate future. Even if you do not feel like you are hurt, it is always best to see a medical professional after a fall. Some severe injuries, like concussions or neck traumas, do not present themselves until a few hours or even a few days after an accident. 

Seeing a doctor will get you the medical treatment you need and start the documentation necessary for possible future legal processes. If your injuries become more severe or require further interventions, beginning the documentation process early on will help protect you against claims of medical fraud, which can impact how much an insurance company will pay out. Make sure you tell your doctor about the details of your fall and follow their directions for continuing care closely.

If You Are Injured

Emergency services will be called to take you to the emergency room if you are severely injured. Make sure to tell the EMTs and medical professionals in the ER the details of your fall. Before you leave, get copies of all your documents, including diagnoses, x-rays, bills or receipts, at-home treatment instructions, and follow-up care instructions.

Gather Your Records

Keep a written record of everything that occurred in the store before and after the fall, including the cause of the fall, your interactions with the manager and store staff, your interactions with any medical professionals, and your physical symptoms. Also, keep your doctor’s notes and bills, x-rays, scans, photos from the accident scene, witness statements, the incident report, lost wage reports from your employer (if applicable), personal reports, and any other records you have together in a file. You may never need all of this, but in the event you initiate a lawsuit against the store, you’ll want to have all your materials gathered in one place.

Are You Ready To Start a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?

The regulations in each state vary, but in general, every business owner has a responsibility to the public to keep their store free of danger. As the victim of a slip and fall, it is on you to prove the store did not fulfill its duty and is liable, or legally responsible, for the damage you sustained. If you are ready to start a slip-and-fall lawsuit, make sure:

You Can Prove Your Claim is Reasonable

In this case, a “reasonable” claim means an average, rational, or logical person paying attention to their surroundings would not have slipped and fallen without negligence on the part of the store. For example, when customers track water into a store during rain or snowstorms, employees use mats to soak up the excess moisture and put up brightly colored “Wet Floor” signs. The store is responsible for keeping customers safe from slipping on the wet floor by notifying them of the danger. If a store does not dry the floors or post signage, they are negligent in their duty to the customer.

If you slip and fall in any situation, remember to ask yourself: Is the property owner or business owner responsible for creating the danger or issue? Or should the issue have been discovered and fixed during the normal course of business before your accident occurred? If the answer is yes, you have a reasonable claim.

Remember, if you file a lawsuit, you may be asked if your own negligence caused the accident (for example: were you distracted, multitasking, talking on the phone, texting, etc.?).

You Believe It Is Worth It

Lawsuits can be expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. Always consider your personal circumstances and resources. Do you have the financial means to bring a lawsuit against a business? If not, can you find a legal team willing to work within your budget or pro bono? Do you have the mental and physical energy to withstand the stress of a lawsuit?

Also, consider whether your injuries are worth the cost, time, and stress of a lawsuit and a potential trial. If you have minor damage like bruises or sprains, it may be tempting to sue.  Although there may be benefits to filing a lawsuit, it is important to consider the potential emotional and financial costs that may come with it.

However, if you have sustained significant bodily damage like broken bones or head trauma, suffer from PTSD, or require costly and/or ongoing medical treatment, a lawsuit might be an appropriate next step. 

You Know Who to Sue

Make sure you know who is at fault. Often, business owners do not own the retail space they operate in. The property owner is responsible for keeping the building safe and in working order and installing all necessary safety measures. If the reason for your slip and fall is something structural, like a part of the building or a parking lot, the owner of the property is at fault. For example, if you fall on a set of stairs that are missing a handrail, the property owner would be at fault. If you happen to fall due to the business's negligence, such as tripping over merchandise left in a walkway, the business owner would be responsible.

You Are Within the Statute of Limitations

Before you decide to pursue legal action, it is important to check that you are still inside the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the period of time after an event in which legal proceedings can be initiated. This deadline varies from state to state, but in general, most states give victims injured in slip-and-fall accidents a deadline of one to six years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit, with the average deadline falling around two or three years. Families of victims killed in falls usually have a slightly extended statute of limitations, but again, it depends on individual state law. 

You’ve Hired an Attorney

If you are unfamiliar with tort law, the legal term for personal injury law, it is best to hire someone who is. Personal injury lawyers can answer your initial questions about filing a lawsuit, walk you through the process, and help you make decisions when unforeseen questions arise. For example, after the store is served, they may reach out with a settlement that partially or fully covers the cost of your medical bills. For many people injured in a fall, medical bills can stack up, and the store’s offer could be tempting. A lawyer’s role is to point out the pros and cons of a settlement and ask questions (like, Would the store cover future medical bills?).

The best lawyer for you is someone with experience, manageable fees, and the ability to communicate with you in a timely manner. Look for an attorney who is honest with you about your case and what you can expect from your legal action. If you’d like to read more about how to find a lawyer, read our guide, How to Hire a Personal Injury Attorney.

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