Imagine that you are strolling through the grocery store, minding your own business. Then suddenly, the world goes spinning. Next thing you know, you find yourself on the ground because you slipped on a spilled product. You’re hurt, embarrassed, and left wondering, Is a grocery store liable if I slip and fall? You might be even more upset if you suffer a serious injury, such as a concussion, spinal damage, or a broken bone.
Lawyers refer to this kind of incident as a slip-and-fall case. Let’s delve into who can be held liable in such cases. We’ll also touch on what you, as the plaintiff, need to prove to receive compensation and what steps to take if you think you have a case.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Slip-and-Fall Case in a Grocery Store?
In a grocery store slip-and-fall case, determining liability involves identifying the party or parties who had a duty to maintain a safe environment but failed to do so. Let’s look at some parties who could potentially be held liable.
Grocery Store Owner or Operator
In most cases, the primary party held liable for a slip-and-fall accident is the grocery store owner or the operator. They have a clear duty of care to keep their premises reasonably safe for customers. This includes regularly inspecting the premises and promptly cleaning up spills. It also includes removing tripping hazards and providing adequate lighting and signage to warn of potential dangers. If they fail in this duty and you get injured, you might be able to hold them responsible.
Things can get trickier when the grocery store is a tenant in a larger property or shopping center. What if the slip and fall was the product of a hazard in a common area? In that case, the larger property owner may be liable. After all, they are responsible for maintaining various areas around the grocery store, including things like parking lots, sidewalks, and common entryways. Failure to meet these duties may make them liable for your damages.
Grocery stores often contract with third-party companies for services like cleaning or maintenance. Sometimes these contractors’ negligence leads to accidents. Maybe the cleaning company left equipment in a walkway that caused you to trip. Or maybe that company failed to clean up a spill after the grocery store specifically ordered them to do so. Whatever the situation, you will likely want to focus your efforts on a contractor if their behavior led to your accident.
Product Manufacturers or Suppliers
Yet another potential party is a specific product manufacturer. Generally, they are accountable when their product is dangerous or defective. For instance, let’s say you slipped on a puddle of water in a grocery store. After investigation, you realize that the water came from a defective, leaking refrigerator. In that case, you might be able to hold the manufacturer liable. For similar reasons, the supplier of a product may also be liable.
While the liability in slip-and-fall accidents often rests with the store owner or operator, there may be circumstances where an individual employee could be held accountable. For instance, if an employee acted recklessly or intentionally created a dangerous condition, they might bear some responsibility.
As you can see, determining liability in a slip-and-fall case can be very complex. Getting to the bottom of your issue often requires a thorough investigation of the relevant facts. An experienced lawyer can help identify all potential defendants to ensure you receive full and fair compensation for your injuries.
What Must Be Proved in a Slip-and-Fall Case?
Typically, proving a slip-and-fall case requires you to establish that a party was negligent. And proving negligence in a New Jersey court generally involves four elements.
- The defendant had a duty of care. In other words, the defendant had a legal responsibility to provide a safe environment. This is usually straightforward in a grocery store setting because store owners and operators have a clear duty to keep their premises safe for customers.
- The defendant breached their duty of care to you. You can show that the defendant failed to meet their duty by proving that they knew or should have known about the hazard. You will also need to prove that they failed to address the hazard in a reasonable time or warn customers about it.
- The breach of duty directly caused the accident. Not all negligent acts lead to accidents. Therefore, you have to prove that you wouldn’t have slipped and fallen if not for the defendant’s breach of duty.
- You suffered harm as a result of the accident caused by the liable party. Even if there was an accident, you cannot recover damages for losses you did not suffer. Consequently, you have to prove that you suffered harm because of the fall, such as physical injuries, emotional distress, lost wages, or medical expenses.
Proving these elements can be challenging. Things can get even more complicated when multiple parties are negligent. That’s just one more reason you should contact an attorney to evaluate your case.
What to Do If You Think You Have a Case
We recommend you take four critical steps if you believe you have a slip and fall case.
First, seek medical attention. Your health should always be your first priority. Even if your injuries seem minor initially, it's crucial to have a medical examination. Some injuries may not be immediately apparent. Second, report the incident. Inform the store management about the fall and make sure they fill out an incident report.
Next, document everything. Take photos of the scene, your injuries, and any other relevant items. Collect the names and contact information of any witnesses. Also, keep a record of all medical treatments and expenses related to the incident. Finally, contact a personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can guide you through the legal process, help you understand what your case is worth, and represent you in court.
The Talented Legal Practitioners at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, LLC, Are Ready to Help You
Now that you know what happens if you slip and fall in a store, you probably want to speak to a lawyer. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place.
O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, LLC is not just another law firm. Our team has both unrivaled expertise and a deep commitment to fighting for justice. That means we can help you hold all responsible parties accountable for their negligence. Our dedicated team will thoroughly investigate your case and gather crucial evidence related to your accident. After that, we will negotiate with insurance companies and, if necessary, represent you in court to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Don’t let a slip-and-fall accident upend your life. With O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, LLC at your side, you can reclaim your footing and move forward with confidence.