What You Should Know About Grocery Store Falls

by | Nov 8, 2021 | Injuries

Slip and fall incidents are the leading cause of both employee and customer injuries at Kentucky grocery stores. These accidents usually cause serious physical and emotional injuries, especially if the victim had a pre-existing mental or physical condition. Particularly if the victim was an older adult, these injuries are often permanent. Most of these victims can no longer live independently after they sustain serious fall injuries.

These victims need and deserve compensation for these serious injuries. Insurance company lawyers are committed to minimizing or eliminating this compensation. But a Lexington personal injury attorney is committed to maximum compensation for victims. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Indoor Falls

Compensation is available if the grocery store owner was negligent. A premises liability negligence claim is usually a two-step process.

Most negligence cases begin with a legal duty. In the premises liability context, this duty usually depends on the relationship between the property owner and injury victim, as follows:

  • Invitee: Almost all grocery store customers and employees are invitees. These individuals have permission to be at the store, and their presence benefits the owner, or could benefit the owner. Therefore, grocery store owners usually have a duty of reasonable care. They must keep the ground clear of wet spots, uneven walkways, and other common floor hazards.
  • Licensee: Children who cut across grocery store parking lots as they walk home form school are usually licensees. Although they have permission to be on the property, their presence doesn’t benefit the owner. As a result, the duty of care is lower. Owners must normally only warn these individuals about latent (hidden) defects.
  • Trespasser: Almost no grocery store fall victims are trespassers. These individuals have no permission to be at the store, and there is no benefit. Children who skateboard in parking lots after hours are usually trespassers. Usually, owners have no legal duty to keep these individuals safe.

An out-of-state conglomerate usually owns the grocery store. So, these fall injury claims have some additional complexities. That’s especially true if the fall happened outside. More on that below.

The duty of care only applies if the owner knew, or should have known, about the hazard which caused the fall. This evidence could be direct or circumstantial.

Direct evidence of actual knowledge usually includes things like open repair invoices and restroom cleaning reports. Circumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) often revolves around the time-notice rule. The longer a wet floor or other fall hazard existed, the more likely it is that the owner should have known about it and should have addressed it.

In either case, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s one of the lowest standards of evidence in Kentucky.

Outdoor Falls

The same legal principles discussed above in indoor falls usually apply in outdoor falls. Common outdoor fall hazards include uneven walkways and ice patches.

Ownership issues are often rather complex in these situations. Usually, the store is responsible for the adjacent sidewalk and parking area. If the store is in a mini-mall, the landlord or management company is usually responsible for common areas, like a large parking area close to the street. 

If a victim launches a legal action against the wrong entity, the error is usually not fatal. However, this mistake usually delays the settlement process.

Your Claim for Damages

Over 90 percent of the negligence claims in Fayette County settle out of court. A few settle almost immediately. However, as mentioned, delays are usually part of the settlement process. Many times, this delay involves a legal defense.

Contributory negligence, in one form or another, is the most common insurance company defense in fall injury claims. Basically, this legal loophole shifts blame for the accident from the owern to the victim. Usually, insurance company lawyers claim that the victim did not maintain a proper lookout for obvious fall hazards.

“Obvious” is a relative term. The aforementioned elderly victims are a good example. Many of these individuals have vision issues. So, hazards are not as obvious. Additionally, many older victims have gait problems. When they lose their balance, they almost always fall.

These same issues often arise in the assumption of the risk defense. This defense usually involves a “Caution: Wet Floor” or other warning sign. The insurance company must prove, by a preponderance of the proof, that the victim saw the sign, was able to read the sign, and could understand the sign’s meaning.

If these or other defenses prebent settlement, the judge will probably refer the case to mediation. During mediation, both sides have a duty to negotiate in good faith. So, the insurance company cannot take a hard line approach or make a low-ball settlement offer. Largely because of this good faith negotiation duty, mediation is usually successful.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. After-hours, virtual, and hospital visits are available. #goodelawyers