A slip and fall at Schnucks or another retail chain can be embarrassing, but it can also lead to serious physical injury. Falling down after slipping or tripping can result in a number of physical and financial setbacks: On top of medical expenses, personal injuries can disrupt a person’s quality of life and ability to work.
If you’re hurt due to a business’s negligence, you deserve to be compensated. Taking the proper steps if a slip and fall happens at a business (like a Schnucks) will increase the chances of reaching a fair settlement.
When to Pursue a Slip and Fall Case
Valid slip and fall cases rely on the legal concept of premises liability. In short, this means that business owners are responsible for injuries that happen on their property.
As with most legal issues, though, it’s not quite that simple. Not everyone involved in a slip and fall at Schnucks has a case. The injured party (the plaintiff, if the case goes to court) must prove not only that they were injured, but that it happened because of actions taken or not taken by the store or its employees.
This might seem like an easy thing to do when you’re the one who was hurt. But the store will have insurance companies and lawyers with experience in personal injury cases. They will try to reduce the amount of any settlement as much as possible, or even argue that their client was not responsible for your injuries. This is why what you do after a slip and fall accident is so important.
What to do After a Slip and Fall Incident
Whether you slip and fall at Schnucks, Walmart, or any other business, follow these steps:
- Seek medical attention. Either have someone call an ambulance, or see a doctor as soon as you are able to do so.
- Report the incident to the store’s staff. Stores typically have a set of procedures to follow when something like this happens. Ask them for a copy of any reports they write up.
- Document everything. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses and take pictures of the spot where you fell or what you tripped over. If you have a visible cut, scrape, or bruise, take pictures of that as well. Write down every detail about the incident while it’s fresh in your mind. Keep all paperwork from the store, emergency personnel, and medical professionals.
- Document your clothing, too. Take pictures of the clothes you were wearing and then set them aside in a safe place at home, in case they become relevant to your case. (The store could claim you tripped on your long skirt or pants, or your footwear posed a danger.)
- Do not make any statements. It is best not to place blame or accept blame when talking to anyone. Stay neutral and do not say much, especially to the store’s staff or insurance representatives. Stay away from the topic on social media or when talking to friends.
- Contact an attorney. Find a lawyer with experience in slip and fall cases. Hipskind & McAninch has dealt with many personal injury cases in St. Louis and Illinois. They can determine if you have a case. If so, they will start a file, handle all the paperwork, and begin working to get you a fair settlement.
Proving a Slip and Fall Case
Being hurt in a slip and fall at a big grocery chain like Schnucks does not guarantee compensation. First, the injured party must demonstrate that they were injured, that it happened at the store, and that what it cost them. Next, they must prove that the owner of the store or its employees were at fault.
Store owners must meet a few conditions to be considered liable for something that happens on their premises. The owner or an employee must have caused the hazard that resulted in the fall. They must also have been aware of the problem but did nothing to fix it. Hazards that cause accidents like a slip and fall are wet floors, icy walkways, broken sidewalks or stairs, bulging carpets, or items placed in aisles where they don’t belong.
There is also an assumption made about what the store failed to do, that a “reasonable” person would have or should have done. For example, was the hazard there long enough that the store personnel would know about it? Did they have a regular procedure to check for such things? In the case of an item in the aisle, was there a legitimate reason for it to be there, or could it have been put in a safer place? Was there a barrier and/or signage to keep customers away?
All of these questions will be asked in order to prove whether the store could have done something to prevent the slip and fall from happening.
One interesting example of how a slip and fall case is argued is Forrest v. Schnucks Markets, Inc., where the plaintiff slipped on a plastic bag in the littered parking lot of the store. The store’s attorneys argued that the bag could have blown in from anywhere (so it was not reasonable for them to know about it or pick it up.) The plaintiff’s lawyers deposed an eyewitness who said not only that the bag was a Schnucks bag, but that the parking lot was often littered, a fact which he had brought to the store’s attention. This satisfied the court that it was reasonable for the store to know of the ongoing problem, and fix it. The judge ruled against Schnucks.
Things That Can Damage a Slip and Fall Case
Customers who slip and fall because of their own behavior may have a hard time getting compensation for their injuries. For example, if an area of the store was roped off because of the hazard, and they were there anyway, or if there were warnings posted that they ignored, it will damage their case. The same is true if they are doing something reckless like running, jumping, or climbing up on the shelves to reach something. The injured party doesn’t have to prove they were being careful, exactly, but a judge or jury may decide against them if they were acting in a way that a careful person would not.
The state where a slip and fall happens can make a big difference if the injured party played any part in causing the accident. Illinois is a contributory negligence state, meaning, a settlement can be reduced by the percentage of blame assigned to the plaintiff. Missouri, on the other hand, is a comparative fault state. If the customer shares any responsibility at all, the entire case could be found for the defendant.
Reaching a Settlement in a Slip and Fall Case
Most personal injury cases, including slip and fall cases, are settled out of court. Only about 5% go to trial. Since every situation is different, it is impossible to say exactly how much a slip and fall settlement will be. It’s important to find an attorney who has experience in these cases.
Compensation for a personal injury suffered in a store, or any business where an owner is negligent can take the form of compensatory or punitive damages.
Compensatory damages reimburse an injured person for actual and estimate costs of medical bills, future medical treatments, lost wages, and expenses to take care of the household while the injured person recovers. They also cover pain and suffering or mental anguish which is hard to place a dollar value on. But plaintiffs are due some compensation for the hardships they have endured as a result of the incident.
Punitive damages are rare in cases of a slip and fall. They would only be assigned if there was not just carelessness, but willful or malicious intent on the part of the store. The purpose of awarding these damages would be to punish the defendant.
When a settlement is offered, the attorneys can advise if it is fair and should be accepted, or if it is best to move forward with a lawsuit.
No one should assume that a store will want to settle just to protect their public image. If they feel they are not liable, they will do what they can to prove it. But when a business is negligent, and you are hurt as a result, you deserve to be fairly compensated. It is best to discuss your case with an attorney who will fight to protect your interests.