Shopping Injuries Overview
Shopping-related injuries account for thousands of personal injury claims each year in the U.S. Most people don't think of being in any particular danger when buying household goods at retail stores. Shopping injuries, however, are more common than one would think. They sometimes involve a store owner's failure to keep their premises safe or warn of known hazards. Unsafe conditions may injure shoppers, workers, and visitors.
Here is a brief overview of shopping injuries.
Types of Shopping Injuries
"Shopping injuries" broadly describe personal injuries that occur while visiting a grocery store, shopping mall, or other retail establishment. While many shopping-related injuries are minor, more serious injuries may include:
- Broken bones
- Sprains and pulled muscles
- Head trauma and traumatic brain injury (TB)
- Spinal or neck injury
- More severe injuries leading to wrongful death (accidental fatality caused by carelessness)
The rate of shopping injuries tends to increase during heavy shopping seasons, such as Christmas, Black Friday, and other holidays.
Types of shopping-related accidents that may occur on a store's property include:
- Slip and fall cases: As a result of wet floors, walkway obstructions, torn carpets, poor lighting in stairways, and escalator malfunctions
- Head and body injuries: From falling objects, retail displays, out-of-reach objects, or other mishaps
- Shopping cart injuries: Falls as a result of a cart tipping over or hitting a person
- Overcrowding injuries: As a result of overcrowding hazards, i.e., trampling and pushing
- Parking lot injuries: As a result of a cracked or improperly designed parking lot or failure to remove ice or snow
Shopping-Related Personal Injury Claims
People injured on commercial property, such as stores or shopping malls, may generally file personal injury claims under a state's negligence laws. Negligence is carelessness by a defendant that leads to another person's harm. Store negligence occurs when a store owner breaches a duty of care to a shopper, the injured person. This means the owner caused the fall accident by failing to make reasonable efforts to prevent foreseeable harm.
Under premises liability laws, store owners must exercise reasonable care to see that a store's premises are safe from hazardous conditions. For example, stores must:
- Clean up spills quickly
- Remove fallen objects
- Fix broken stairs or railings
- Replace dead light bulbs
- Provide adequate general safety for customers
To prove a store was legally responsible for a shopper's injuries, the injured person must show:
- The store owner knew (or should have known) about a dangerous condition on their property.
- The store owner did not regularly inspect the store for dangers or provide adequate maintenance.
- The dangerous condition occurred regularly or existed for so long that the store owner had constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition.
- The shopper would not have been injured if there was not a dangerous condition on the property.
- There was a relationship between the dangerous condition and the shopper's injury.
- The shopper suffered actual "damages" as a result of it.
The above points address the legal elements of a negligence claim. These elements are duty, breach, causation, and damages.
When fall injuries result from a store owner's breach of duty to make the premises safe, a plaintiff can file a store injury lawsuit. Their medical expenses will help obtain a damages verdict or payment through an insurance claim. Medical bills can also be used to document the nature of the fall injuries for use in court or in negotiations with an insurance company.
Store Owner's Defense to a Property Owners Claim
Store owners who face a personal injury claim may raise the following defenses:
- No dangerous conditions existed on the premises.
- The store owner had no prior knowledge.
- The store owner took prior reasonable steps to correct any dangerous condition.
- The condition was so obvious as to be reasonably avoided.
- The danger did not cause the customer's injuries.
- The injury occurred in a place where customers are not allowed.
- The store owner gave adequate warning (through signage or disclaimers).
- The individual alleged to be the store owner or in control of the premises does not, in fact, own or control the premises.
- The customer was negligent and assumed their own risk. See also our article on the Assumption of Risk Defense.
This is not an exhaustive list of available defenses. Depending on who they represent, a super lawyer will be able to assert additional defenses or fight against them.
Consider Legal Help If You've Been Injured While Shopping
If you or your loved one have been injured while shopping on a store's premises, you should discuss your potential case with an experienced personal injury attorney. A good personal injury lawyer can help determine whether a store was at fault. This may help you recover monetary damages for the injuries you've incurred.
Talk to a personal injury attorney near you to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of your case. They can give you legal advice through a personal injury case review.
You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.