The most common injury that customers sustain while at grocery stores are slip and fall accidents. These accidents can be caused by stray produce and other products that have fallen off of the grocery store’s shelves. Additionally, the customer may slip on a wet floor, or they may be injured by unattended handtrucks or ladders.
In some cases, the grocery store will be held liable for a customer’s injury that was sustained while on the grocery store’s premises. However, the store may not always be at fault. In situations in which a wet floor or dangerous condition is obvious to other customers, the injured customer may not be able to prove that the grocery store is liable for their injuries.
Grocery stores will usually take preventative methods, such as placing wet floor warning signs in dangerous areas, in order to help notify customers of any potential dangers that should be avoided.
State laws regarding grocery store liability for injury to customers vary, but there are a few general legal considerations. In order to hold a store liable, you will need to prove that the grocery store was somehow negligent. In legal terms, negligence refers to a failure to use reasonable care, with that failure resulting in the injury of another person. And, in order to prove negligence, you will need to provide proof that:
- The property owner owed you a duty to protect you or warn you;
- The owner breached this duty; and,
- An injury occurred because of this breach of duty to protect or warn you.
As previously mentioned, owners and operators of grocery stores have a responsibility to their customers to keep them safe from dangers while in the grocery store. This type of responsibility, in legal terms, is referred to as the duty of care.
A duty of care requires grocery stores to take reasonable steps in order to ensure that the store is kept safe and clean for the customers. Some examples of this duty of care include making sure that the aisles are kept clear of spills and broken glass, and security staff is maintained in order to prevent violent individuals in the market from harming other customers.
A more specific example is if a bottle of olive oil falls onto the grocery store floor and breaks. The store employees have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to sweep up any broken glass, mop up the spilled oil, and make sure customers are aware of the danger of slipping by setting up warning signs, such as wet floor signs. If a grocery store employee fails to take these reasonable steps, the grocery store owner or operator may be liable to an injured customer for failing to follow a reasonable duty of care.
They may also be held liable for a customer’s injuries if the grocery store’s employees were not properly trained to take reasonable steps to keep the grocery store safe and clean, thereby fulfilling their duty of care and reducing the likelihood that a customer will sustain an injury.
If you were injured while in a grocery store, you may be able to sue for compensatory damages in a civil court. A lawsuit involving an injury that resulted because of premises liability, such as slip and fall accidents, will likely be a personal injury claim.
Compensatory damages is a legal term which describes the financial compensation awarded to the victim in a personal injury claim. These types of damages will help to cover your medical bills, as well as any income that has been lost as a result of not being able to work because of sustained injuries.
For example, if an injured plaintiff can show that the grocery store owner created a dangerous condition in the store, or was aware of a dangerous condition in the store but did not exercise reasonable care to fix a slippery floor, they may be found to have been negligent. In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that the grocery show was negligent in some way.
Some factors that prove a grocery store may be negligent include:
- The same dangerous condition caused another customer to be injured in a previous accident;
- The grocery store employees knew about the dangerous condition but did not fix it or exercise their duty of care; or
- The dangerous condition existed for a long period of time before being resolved.
As an accident victim, you will need to prove multiple facts in order to prove that the grocery store was negligent in some way. You must demonstrate that their negligent actions directly contributed to causing your accident. For example, you may show that the grocery store should have cleaned a wet floor to prevent a slipping hazard, or placed wet floor warning signs.
Additionally, you will need to show that the accident itself caused your injuries. In some cases, the defendant might argue that you sustained your injuries before or after the accident. Because of this, it is in your best interest to seek medical treatment immediately following the accident.
This could help your case because your injuries will be properly documented and diagnosed by a medical professional. In the same vein, you may consider taking clear and detailed photographs any damages sustained, whether on your physical body or to any personal property.
You will also need to provide documentation of the financial costs associated with your injuries and damages. This documentation will be used in calculating your compensatory damages. Some examples of this documentation include medical bills, long term treatment guidelines, repair bills, and written documentation of your inability to work as a result of the grocery store’s negligence.
There are many defenses available to grocery store owners when a customer has been injured on their premises. Some common defenses include:
- The alleged dangerous condition never actually existed (store surveillance video may be necessary to prove this);
- The store employees were not aware of the dangerous condition, or could not have known about it due to its location;
- Reasonable steps were taken in order to protect the customers from injury;
- The dangerous condition was obvious and could have been avoided by the injured customer;
- The dangerous condition did not actually cause injuries to the customer;
- The injury was sustained while the customer was in an area that was off limits to customers, such as an employee break room;
- The customer assumed the risk of injury by shopping in the grocery store; or
- The customer contributed to their own injuries through comparative negligence, or contributory negligence.
For example, if the customer created the spill on purpose for a prank, but then spilled in it and injured themselves. While they were injured in the grocery store, they actually created the danger. Even if they didn’t intend to get hurt, since they created it and then immediately were injured, then they had no reason to expect the grocery store to be able to warn them of the danger.
If you have been injured at a grocery store, you will need to prove to the court that the grocery store was negligent in some way. A skilled and knowledgeable personal injury attorney will be able to assess your case, represent your interests in court, and help ensure you receive the compensation you are due.