What can you do if you have been injured after slipping and falling while shopping at Wal-Mart, or while otherwise on store property? This article offers an overview of your rights, and what to expect if you pursue a slip and fall accident claim for compensation.
Obviously, if you have been injured in a fall at Wal-Mart, you should immediately seek medical care. Consult with any providers that your doctor or the Emergency Department doctor recommends, and be sure to follow up as instructed. Take all medicines as prescribed, and adhere to your physicians' recommendations about how long to abstain from certain activities while you recover. You are the most important factor in your recovery. And if you do decide to pursue a legal claim, it will be important to have all injuries and treatment documented, and to show that you did everything you could to get proper medical care.
Sometimes it can be hard to notice things when you are hurting. But if you experience a fall at a big box store like Wal-Mart, do your best to pay attention to detail in the event that you do end up with a viable injury claim. Find out if anybody saw you fall or observed what caused you to fall. Was an item in your path that should have been on the shelf? Was there a spill in your way that wasn't cleaned up by store employees?
If so, write down the contact information of witnesses around you who saw what happened, and use your cell phone camera to take pictures, or have someone do that for you. It's a safe bet that whatever caused you to fall will be cleaned up or remedied once store employees see that you are hurt, so you need to record the presence of the hazard somehow, if at all possible.
You should also photograph the aisle or area where you fell so you can remember and demonstrate later what condition it was in at the exact time you were hurt. Take pictures of your injury, if it is visible, such as a bruise or cut. Also take pictures of your clothes if they are wet because this could be further proof that a foreign substance was present and that it caused your fall.
If it is impossible to do this at the time of your injury, return to the scene or have a relative or friend return, as soon as possible to take photographs of the area where you fell. Even though it may not look the way it did when you were injured, it will still be helpful to have pictures of the area and the displays in it because these may have affected your ability to notice any hazard. Try to find out what employees were on duty in that area when you fell. If you can, note the names of any employees who came to offer you assistance.
If it seems clear that you have a significant injury, you may want to consider bringing a legal claim against Wal-Mart, and you may want to start by contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer, preferably someone who has sued Wal-Mart before. To win a negligence case against Wal-Mart, you will need to prove that they failed to meet their legal obligation to keep the store in a reasonably safe and hazard-free condition, and that you were injured as a result.
The most difficult aspect of department store slip and fall cases tends to be proving that the store failed to properly maintain its premises to keep customers safe from falls.
Wal-Mart claims to have specific policies in place, including routine sweeps of the store, to cut down on accidents and prevent hazardous conditions from arising. But the mere existence of those polices does not mean that they are always followed. In some cases, an employee could have made a mistake by failing to notice or to properly deal with a dangerous condition like a fallen item or wet floor. In other cases, an employee could have actually caused the condition to exist in the first place.
The best way to know whether Wal-Mart failed to take steps to reasonably protect you as a customer is to have your lawyer investigate your claim thoroughly -- that means speaking to witnesses, obtaining video if any exists, and pursuing all available avenues to prove the store's liability.