Slip and Fall Accidents in Department Stores

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of injury at department stores and retail locations nationwide. More than a million Americans visit emergency rooms each year seeking treatment for slips or falls that they sustained while shopping at clothing retailers, big box stores, or the grocery store.

Although slip and fall accidents are quite common, they are also vastly underreported. Property owners and insurance companies may attempt to convince victims that they are to blame for the accident in order to avoid liability. Many victims are told that their injuries are their own fault due to clumsiness or carelessness on their part.

However, the safety of department store customers and employees is actually in the hands of the property or business owner. They have an obligation to uphold the highest safety practices to protect employees and customers from injury while they shop, and to train employees to respond to potential hazards as soon as they are recognized.

If you’ve been involved in a department store slip and fall accident, you may be able to recover damages caused by the negligence of a store manager or property owner. It’s important to involve an attorney who has experience litigating personal injury or wet floor accident lawsuits with a record of successful outcomes. Don’t suffer in silence. Contact the personal injury team at Berry Law. They can assess the value of your claim and help fight for fair compensation so you can get back to the business of living.

Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents in Department Stores

According to the National Safety Council, slips and falls account for approximately 15 percent of all workplace injuries. With an estimated 2,000 slips and falls reported in the United States each day, these injuries may happen on the sales floor, in the entryway, inside of a public restroom, in the company break room or stock room, or outside on the parking lot or sidewalk. Common causes of department store slip and fall accidents include:

Slick or Wet Floors

Recently mopped or waxed floors may look nice, but they are a common source of slips and falls in retail stores. Wet floors account for more than half of all slips and falls in retail settings. Regardless of whether the floor is wet because an employee is routinely cleaning or mopping up a recent spill, any time a floor is wet, wet floor signs should be posted to warn customers.

All spills should be reported or cleaned up immediately after they are discovered. Selecting cleaning products that leave a slick film can also cause slips, so it’s important to only use products that are specifically made for use on floors.

Putting down runner mats during inclement weather can help to prevent rain and snow from being tracked inside and contributing to slip and fall accidents as well.

Uneven Walking Surfaces

Parking lots, sidewalks, and interior flooring that is cracked, crumbling or otherwise uneven can lead to stumbling and tripping. It’s a property owner’s responsibility to keep interior and exterior walking surfaces on their property in good condition.

Loose or bunched rugs or mats may also create tripping hazards. They should lay flat against the ground to reduce the possibility that an employee or customer will trip over them.

Clutter

Display racks that are arranged too close together, clothes that have fallen off of the rack and into walkways, and other objects that impede aisles in a department store are tripping concerns. Bottom drawers and cabinets that have been left open are also common culprits that contribute to tripping accidents in retail settings.

Department store stockrooms are particularly susceptible to such hazards when trash, packing materials, or empty boxes are left to accumulate and block the path of employees and their accessibility to the storeroom. Properly training employees on the correct arrangement of display racks and the disposal of cardboard and other trash can help with prevention.

Loose Cords

Any loose cables, cords or wiring in public walkways should be taped to the floor or otherwise secured so they don’t catch a customer’s feet as they are shopping. Be particularly cautious of temporary cords or wiring, such as those used on vacuums or during construction projects, and try to avoid stretching cords across aisles and walkways in general.

Ice and Snow

Following a winter storm, retailers should not open for business until they have had time to clear and clean parking lots, sidewalks, and steps of ice and snow. Doing so before winter weather accumulation is cleared puts the business owner at risk for a potential lawsuit if someone falls and is injured on the property. Adding sand or salt prior to a snow or ice storm may help prevent accumulation and offer traction as well.

Lack of Training

Department store employees should be offered the training, tools and resources they need to keep themselves and customers safe. This should include instruction in the proper use of a ladder or stepstool if they are required to use one. Employees should be encouraged to avoid reaching or leaning beyond the stability of the ladder, to only step onto ladders that have been fully opened and secured with safety locks, and to place ladders on even ground before use. They should also be instructed to always follow the manufacturer’s weight limits for the product.

Training should include information on what to do in the event that an employee notices a spill in the store, including who to call or where cleaning supplies and wet floor signs are located to take care of the situation immediately.

Safe carrying practices, such as avoiding carrying loads so large that they obstruct an employee’s view of potential hazards in front of them, should also be addressed.

Poor Lighting

Brightly lit stores, aisles and stockrooms allow employees and customers to visualize spills or objects in their path and avoid them entirely. To prevent slipping and tripping accidents, provide sufficient walkway lighting and immediately replace burnt out lightbulbs.

Issues of Liability in Department Store Slip and Fall Accidents

Failure to take safety precautions or address hazards as soon as they are noticed in a public setting like a department or retail store can lead to employee or customer injuries. They may be superficial and heal quickly, or they can be quite severe in nature and require months or years of medical intervention and rehabilitation. These type of injuries cost Americans $34 billion annually.

Lacerations, sprains, strains, and bruising are fairly minor outcomes of slip and fall accidents. Examples of more grave injuries can include concussion or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), damage to the neck and back, including bulging or herniated discs, and fractures. The hips, arms, and spine are the most commonly affected bones in slip and fall accidents, with a quarter of fractures serous enough to require surgery.

Slip and fall injuries can lead to debilitating pain, loss of future earnings, and financial difficulties for victims and their families. In extreme cases, people have died following a fall in a department store. With 700 reported deaths each year that stem from slip and fall accidents, slips and falls are the third most common reason for accidental death in the United States, occurring most often in people over age 55.

Property or business owners can be held financially responsible in the event that someone is injured or dies due to negligence in a retail setting. Premises liability insurance exists to compensate slip and fall victims and their families for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. All retail store owners should carry premises liability insurance for this very reason.

Steps to Take If You’ve Been Injured

In the event that you’re injured in a department store slip and fall accident, first seek medical attention. Insurance companies will require a record of injuries and any treatment received as a result. Even if you don’t notice pain immediately, undergoing an examination by a medical professional may reveal issues that wouldn’t otherwise present themselves until much later. It also helps avoid a scenario where the insurance company questions the severity of your injuries at the time of the accident.

If you’re physically able to do so, document the scene of a slip and fall accident and any hazards that may have caused it. Photos are crucial evidence in slip and fall cases. They can help a jury visualize what happened the day of the event. Property owners or store managers may correct the hazards soon after your accident to avoid future liability, so having documentation is critical.

Speak to people who may have witnessed the accident and write down their names and contact information in the event that you or your attorney needs to contact them in the future. Keep all paperwork related to your medical treatment and employment restrictions or human resources documentation. Hire an attorney who knows how to communicate with insurance companies and who will advocate for your interests to get you the compensation you deserve. Call today to get started.

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