Slips and falls are common accidents where conditions are often slippery. That includes grocery stores, which may have misters in the produce section that spray water onto the floor (or water that may drop off produce when customers pull it out of the coolers to put in their carts). Condensation can form in chilled areas, such as the freezers, meat coolers, and dairy sections. Even areas that have to be mopped due to spills and breakage can be slippery. Grocery stores have a responsibility to keep these areas safe and well-marked. But they can still find ways to claim the injuries were the customer’s fault. Here are some common defenses.
What Are Some Common Defenses Grocery Stores Use for Slip and Falls?
Grocery stores have a duty to make their stores as safe as possible for customers. Most store owners and managers are well aware of that and can point to policies they use to monitor safety.
However, having a policy and enforcing it, or having policies that are actually useful, is another matter.
- The store has a policy requiring employees to scan the floor for risks regularly, such as every 15 minutes. But all it takes is one customer with a parent who doesn’t notice their child in the cart dropping an open container of yogurt on the floor for a hazard to be created in seconds.
- The customer wasn’t looking where they were going. A customer with a full cart walking down an aisle while looking at the shelves could be said to be responsible for not looking at the floor ahead.
- The customer strayed into an employees-only area where the store says it’s not liable for customer safety.
- The customer created an unsafe condition (for example, spilled coffee and didn’t wipe it up).
These can be complex cases to prove and receive damages for. It’s highly recommended that someone who suffered an injury in a slip and fall accident at a grocery store work with an experienced slip and fall attorney who knows the tactics the grocer will use and how to counter them.
How Is Negligence Proven?
For a slip and fall case to be pursued successfully in Washington state, the injured party must prove that the grocery store was guilty of negligence. Basically, that means proving the grocery store failed to provide reasonable care in keeping its customers safe. That, in turn, requires several steps to be proven to claim damages successfully.
- Duty of care. This means the grocery store owed its customers a safe space to shop.
- Breach of duty of care. This means that the grocery store did not adhere to the duty of care, so unsafe spaces were not mitigated properly or on a timely basis.
- Causation. Because of the breach of duty of care, someone was harmed who wouldn’t have been injured if the duty of care wasn’t breached.
- Damages. The injured person suffered actual harm, whether from physical injury or through things like lost wages, medical bills, or pain and suffering.
What Is Washington State’s Comparative Negligence Doctrine?
Washington State follows what’s known as pure comparative negligence. This means that if the injured person is even 99% at fault for the accident that caused their injury, they’re still entitled to 1% of any damages awarded to them. For example, if someone in a grocery store were deemed 25% responsible for the accident and were awarded $10,000 in damages, they’d receive $7,500, or $10,000 minus the 25% responsibility.
Because it’s not uncommon for more than one person to be at fault in an accident that causes injuries, this law allows for each side to be assigned a percentage of the blame appropriate to their role in the accident. But this is also what can make these cases complicated. The grocery store and its management, insurance company, and attorney all have a vested interest in shifting as much blame as possible to the customer, so the store doesn’t have to pay any damages, whether through their insurance company or otherwise. Working with an experienced slip and fall attorney can help prevent unnecessary blame from being attributed to the injured person.
What Should I Do if I Was Injured from a Slip and Fall at a Grocery Store?
If there were any eyewitnesses to your fall, get their names and contact information. Take a look to see if the store had any security cameras in the area that might have recorded the fall. They may become essential witnesses. Then see a doctor as soon as possible. Even if you feel fine, there are injuries that don’t exhibit symptoms immediately, including some severe injuries that can worsen if left untreated.
Then call us at 509-638-1414 to request a free consultation. Personal injury cases can be complex. Working with our team of experienced, knowledgeable slip and fall accident attorneys can put you on the path to receiving the best outcomes possible.
One thing it’s essential not to do: Respond to any requests for communication from the grocery store’s management, insurance representative, or lawyer. They could try to get you to say something indicating you were at fault for the accident in order to vindicate them, or they could try to get you to accept a settlement that’s much lower than you may be eligible for. Don’t answer their questions and forward their communications to your attorney.