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This post was updated on November 4, 2022.
On the day after Thanksgiving, nearly 155 million Americans will descend upon their local retail stores searching for the best bargains of the holiday season. It's the busiest shopping day of the year!
For many, Black Friday can be exhilarating. Some love negotiating their way through the large crowds in search of steep markdowns. But for others, the yearly spectacle can be downright dangerous. Here are just some ways you can get injured and what you should do about it if you are.
“Black Friday" initially had nothing to do with holiday shopping. In 1869, Wall Street financier Jay Gould and railway magnate James Fisk conspired to drive up the price of gold by cornering the market. When President Ulysses S. Grant learned of their scheme, he ordered the government to flood the market. The price of gold plummeted, which led to a Friday, September 24, market crash. That was the first Black Friday.
“Black Friday" first became associated with shopping in the 1950s. The Philadelphia police used it to describe the general pandemonium that erupted the day after Thanksgiving as crowds descended on the city for the annual Army–Navy football game. Not only were the police unable to take the Thanksgiving holiday weekend off, but they were forced to work extra shifts as tourists and shoplifters alike stormed retail stores the day before the game.
By the 1980s, “Black Friday" had taken on its current meaning as the biggest shopping day of the year. After operating at a loss — in the “red" — for most of the year, stores finally turned a profit — said to be in the “black" — after they racked up sales the day after Thanksgiving. Hence the name, “Black Friday."
Your first risk arises before you even get into the store. Many people are hurt in parking lot fender benders, especially as impatient and aggressive drivers stalk the perfect parking spot. If your car is hit by another driver looking for a parking space, stay calm, call the police, notify your insurance company, and politely exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. While you are waiting for the police, get the names of any witnesses. And take pictures. Lots of pictures.
Or maybe an employee wheeling a convoy of shopping carts to the entrance loses control and slams into your car. Be gentle — they didn't do it on purpose — and inform the store manager what happened. They can put you in touch with the people at the store who handle property damage claims. You may also want to notify your insurance company in case you have coverage. Again, take pictures.
Suppose you are hurrying to the entrance and you get hit by a car. If you are injured, have someone call 911. They will send the police and, if necessary, an ambulance. If you can, get the names of any witnesses and have them take pictures of the scene and your injuries. Have someone notify the store manager of the accident. Notify your insurance company and, if warranted, consider getting advice from a personal injury attorney.
Remember to stay calm. You may miss the sale, but your well-being is far more important than the dollars you might save.
Getting hit by a careless driver isn't the only risk you face in the parking lot. In northern climates, melting ice and snow near the store entrance can cause you to suffer a slip-and-fall accident. Hopefully, only your pride may be hurt. But you could be seriously injured.
If this happens, seek any necessary medical attention. If you are physically able, notify the manager of your serious injuries and the dangerous conditions in the parking lot. They may be able to remedy them before anyone else gets hurt. And not to sound like a broken record, but take pictures of the scene and your injuries.
Once your medical needs are taken care of, contact the appropriate store representative and submit your injury claim. Most stores will work with you. If they don't satisfy you, get legal advice from a local personal injury lawyer. Many will provide a free case evaluation.
Suppose you make it to the store unscathed. You then have to get past the crowd and make it to that season's hottest item before the store runs out. You and everyone else.
Most Black Friday injuries occur in shopping stampedes. For example, in 2008 a Walmart employee in New York was literally trampled to death when a horde of 2,000 aggressive shoppers busted through the store door looking to take advantage of Black Friday sales. Similarly, in 2006, a shopping mall in Southern California as part of a promotion dropped 500 gift certificates from the ceiling into a crowd. Ten people were injured in the trampling.
If you are crushed in a shopping stampede, you may be able to hold the store responsible. A store has a legal duty to take reasonable steps to keep its customers safe. That would include having adequate crowd control, especially if the store is running promotions. Consider contacting a local personal injury lawyer and getting their guidance.
Once you're in the store, you need to make your way safely through the aisles. With so many people shopping for the same things, there are bound to be confrontations. Most result in nothing more than perhaps an exchange of angry words, but sometimes they get physical. For example:
The list goes on and on. In fact, there is an entire website, “Black Friday Death Count," that keeps track of Black Friday deaths and injuries. As of this writing, they report 17 Black Friday-related deaths and 125 injuries.
If you are seriously injured by another Black Friday shopper, our advice is to try to stay calm. Call the police and get medical attention. If you can, notify the store manager and get the names of any witnesses. And again, consider consulting an experienced personal injury attorney. While stores are not generally liable for the conduct of their customers, they may be held responsible if they failed to have adequate security.
Aggressive shoppers aren't your only problem. You also have to worry about overzealous store security. Despite their experience, they may not be adequately prepared, in training or in temperament, to deal with the frenzy of shoppers — and shoplifters — on Black Friday. And they may result to force. For example:
If you are injured by store security, you may have a claim against both the store and the security company. Get the medical attention you may need and consider whether your next stop should be at your trusty personal injury attorney's office.
Even if your shopping expedition was uneventful, you still have to get home safely. You have no idea how exhausted other drivers may be. Or how much egg nog they may have consumed. According to Progressive Insurance, car accidents spike by 34% on Black Friday.
If you get into a car accident on Black Friday, do what you would do on any other day. Stay calm. Check yourself and others for injuries. Call 911. Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver or drivers. Get the names of any witnesses. Notify your insurance company. And, we'll say it again, take pictures of the scene, the damage to your car, and any injuries.
Despite the risks, many people enjoy Black Friday. If you are one of those intrepid adventurers, make sure you take adequate precautions. And if you'd rather spend the day avoiding the insanity and watching Christmas Rom-Coms on Netflix instead, take solace — there's always Cyber Monday.
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.