If someone falls outside a store, is the store liable?

Question

If someone falls outside a store, is the store liable?

Answer

In some cases, yes, the owner of a store can be held liable for injuries that occur just outside the store. But the store’s legal responsibility for a slip and fall or some other accident will depend on the specific circumstances of the incident.

There are a few exterior areas that will almost surely be considered part of the store’s responsibility when it comes to keeping the premises reasonably free of safety hazards. These include the parking area (especially if it is reserved solely for the use of store customers and store employees), the walkway and entrance areas in front of the store, and the sidewalk (in some cases; more on this below).

A store owner, like any owner of property, has a legal obligation to keep the premises reasonably safe for visitors who enter the property. The specifics of that obligation -- the lengths to which the property owner must go to in order to make and keep the property safe -- vary according to the situation and the status of the visitor. But generally speaking, a store owner owes customers the legal duty to act reasonably in not creating safety hazards on the premises, in recognizing any dangerous  condition that does exist, in removing or repairing  any potential danger, and/or in warning customers of the danger until it can be remedied. (Learn more about proving a slip and fall case.)

So, consider your case in light of the store owner’s legal obligations, and remember that just because you were injured on property that is under the purview of the store owner, it doesn’t automatically follow that the store owner will be on the legal hook for those injuries.  

One more thing to note: In situations where a customer is injured on the sidewalk in front of a store -- tree roots have lifted the cement, causing the sidewalk to become uneven, for example -- liability may rest not with the store owner but with the local municipality (city, county, township, etc.) that has the legal obligation to maintain the sidewalk and take reasonable measures to repair any problems. And in those cases, in most states you’ll need to follow a strict claim filing procedure in order to get compensation for your injuries. Learn more about injury claims against the government and how these cases work.      

by:  , J.D.

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