A news report of a slip and fall lawsuit filed against the Bellaire Wal-Mart highlights the risk every ordinary shopping trip possesses. A woman is suing the Wal-Mart for slipping on spilled liquid on the store floor. Some may laugh and dismiss a slip and fall accident as trivial and not worthy of a lawsuit. However, even what seems like a simple fall can result in serious and lasting injuries.
The National Safety Council reports that slip and fall accidents are responsible for 8.6 million visits to the emergency room annually. And those accidents can result in injuries that are anything but trivial, as more than 21,700 Americans died from falls in 2007. Falls often result in broken bones, and falls backwards can cause head injuries that can be fatal In some circumstances.
The Texas State Office of Risk Management notes between 2003 and 2005, there were 5,337 slip and fall incidents reported in Texas.
Stores Can Be An Obstacle Course
Customers and employees drop and break or spill containers of liquid and dry products. Employees may leave pallets or product on floors where customers may trip over them.
Employees, in stocking product and moving it throughout the store may damage containers, inadvertently spreading sugar, flour, rice and a nearly infinite numbers of products that can become a slip and fall hazard for customers within the store.
A store has a duty to protect customers from an unreasonable risk of harm. But, a store is not an insurer of their customer's safety, meaning they only need to do what is "reasonable" to prevent a customer from being injured. And what is reasonable may be different in every case.
What Did They Know And When Did They Know It
A store owes a customer a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect them from dangerous conditions in the store that are either known or reasonably discoverable.
To recover damages in a slip and fall case, a plaintiff must prove:
- Store had knowledge of the condition
- Condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm
- Store failed to exercise reasonable care to deal with the risk
- Store's failure caused injury
A reasonable time for the owner to discover the condition varies depending upon the facts of the case, and evidence of an employee's location near the hazard.
This means that every case will be different, as a plaintiff will need to demonstrate the length of time the hazard was present in the store and that the time frame was "reasonable" to permit the store to have cleaned up the spill or removed or disposed of the hazard.
Therefore, it is important to gather evidence and document the hazard that caused the fall and the surrounding area as soon as possible.
If you slipped and/or fell as a store patron, it is important to speak to an attorney knowledgeable in premises liability matters. A lawyer can help you determine the responsible party and help you hold them accountable for your injuries.