When You May Not Be Able to Sue a Business for a Slip-and-Fall Injury

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If you have recently been injured by slipping and falling on some milk or another spilled fluid within your local grocery store, then you may be able to sue the grocery store for damages. However, this is not always the case and the store may not need to pay any of your medical bills due to the situation surrounding the injury. Understanding whether or not you have a case before you speak with a personal-injury attorney about compensation  is important. Keep reading to learn about some situations that may let the grocery store off the hook for your injuries.

The Spill Just Happened

All businesses must provide an environment that is considered safe and secure for all individuals who enter the premises. This is the case for all employees and customers. Safe doors and doorways, slip-proof flooring, ample lighting, and guardrails near steps are a few examples of precautionary items that should be installed to keep patrons safe. If one of these safety measures fails and causes a fall, then the business would be liable for the injury. In this case, the business failed to recognize an obvious hazard and did not take measures to mitigate injuries.

If a gallon of milk spills or a pickle jar falls and shatters on the floor, then this also presents a dangerous hazard that would be obvious. However, business owners are not held liable for accidental incidents that occur that they did not know about. For example, if you are walking behind an elderly lady who knocks into a shelf with her cart, then the cart may knock a jar of pickles on the floor. If you are walking directly behind the lady and slip on the jar's contents, then the store would not be held liable. There is no way that the store could have anticipated the accident or remedied the situation before you slipped. In this situation, there is no negligence. Negligence must be proven for you to win a personal-injury case against the store owner.

However, some negligence may have contributed if the elderly woman knocked into a shelf that was wobbly in the first place. If the poor condition of the shelf contributed to the jaw of pickles falling on the ground, then the store would be at least partially negligent with the incident. However, your lawyer would need to prove that the incident may not have occurred if the shelf had been strongly secured. 

You Were Not Paying Attention

Sometimes your own carelessness may be the reason for your slip-and-fall accident, and this will often leave you as the person to blame for the slip and fall. For example, a spill may have happened in the store a few hours before you arrived, and the owner may have not had time to clean the area. Several orange cones, a wet-floor sign, or yellow tape may have been used to show that there was a hazard in the space.

If a sign was present, and if you walked into the spill area while looking at your phone, talking to a friend, or otherwise not paying attention, then you may be liable for your own injuries. Not only does the business have a duty of care, but there is also a reasonable expectation that you will be careful when in a store.

Warning and hazard signs do not always let a business of the hook, though. The signs are only effective in mitigating injuries if they are large enough to be seen or are easily recognizable as a warning. Also, the spill should be cleaned within a reasonable time frame to show that the business has a proper duty of care for the space. For example, if the hazard sign over the spill had been in place for four hours or the sign was only a few inches tall or had lettering that was difficult to read, then the business would be liable for the incident, since the warning would not be effective.