Grocery Store Slip and Fall Claims

Grocery stores and other retailers have legal obligations to keep their customers safe while in their stores.  When they fail and someone gets hurt the store and their insurance company may be held liable for the injuries and damages that result.  As you can well imagine, falling onto a hard tile or concrete surface can result in very serious injuries...some that last a lifetime.  Getting the legal help you need is critical.

The Legal Duties of a Grocery Store in California

Under California law, a grocery store (like Stater Bros., Ralphs, Whole Foods, etc.) has a legal duty to keep their business in a reasonably safe condition at all times.  Where produce and other foods are sold, the chances of a spill or drop onto the floor are high.  When this happens a slipping or tripping hazard is created.  Because of this danger, the courts have imposed certain obligations on grocery stores (and other retailers for that matter) such that retailers have an affirmative duty to exercise ordinary care to keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition, and therefore must inspect them or take other proper means to ascertain their condition.  Ortega v. Kmart Corp. (2001) 26 Cal. 4th 1200, 1213  When the store does not conduct reasonable inspections it may be inferred that the condition existed for a substantial period of time such that it should have been discovered upon reasonable inspection.  This is the finding that establishes neglect and imposes liability on the store.

In addition to the duty to inspect, grocery stores have an obligation to warn patrons of potential dangers.  If, for example, a store employee comes across a spill on the floor that he cannot clean up immediately, the employee has an obligation to warn customers.  The warning may be as simple as standing guard over the spill until help arrives to clean the spill, or the employee may have to mark or cone off the area so that shoppers do not walk through the hazard.  Either way, the duty to warn is present whenever the store's employees know of a danger that must remain for any length of time.  That warning must also be reasonable.  It is not enough to "warn" customers by placing a sign 10 or 15 feet from the actual danger.

The Slip and Fall Claims Process

After a slip and fall at a grocery store or other business, the first thing you should do is report the incident to store management as soon as you are able.  In this context, you should report the fall and the fact that you are injured.  If the cause of the fall is known, that too should be reported.  It is always a good idea to take pictures of the accident scene as those may prove very helpful in the claims process.  You do not want to speculate as to the cause or any injuries.  Sometimes, injuries do not appear for a matter of days so reporting that you "feel fine" or were "not injured" is usually not a good idea.  What you should do is tell store management that you will seek your own treatment.  Of course, if the injuries are immediately apparent and serious, the best thing to do is to have the store call for emergency medical assistance. 

After an injury fall, contacting an experienced lawyer can be very helpful.  The fall injury claims process includes gathering enough facts to establish the store's responsibility and determining the full nature and extent of the injuries and damages.  Gathering the relevant medical records, bills and lost wage documentation can take months and depends largely on the amount of time it takes for the injuries to heal.  After the victim is back to their "pre-accident" state (or as close as they're likely to get), a settlement proposal can be submitted to the grocery store's insurance carrier and negotiations will begin.  If that negotiation process fails to bring about a fair settlement, then a lawsuit will need to be filed with the court in order to resolve the case.  All along, the attorney will advise you as to whether the case should be settled and what next steps will need to be taken to accomplish that.  While the vast majority of slip and fall claims settle prior to trial (and often prior to the filing of a lawsuit), all cases are measured in terms of what a jury would likely decide in the case, both as to liability and the damages sustained.  This "jury potential" evaluation is what experienced injury attorneys understand and do on a nearly daily basis.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a slip and fall in a grocery store or other retail business, contacting a personal injury attorney with decades of experience may be the most important step to securing compensation for the injuries and damages suffered.  Mr. Ralph is an injury lawyer with 30 years of experience at handling slip and fall cases both in and outside of Orange County.  His City of Orange office is centrally located and convenient for those in the Southern California area.  


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