Slip and Fall Injuries in Grocery Stores
Anyone who shops in a grocery store or supermarket has had the experience of picking up produce that has just been spritzed with water, or a package of meat full of juice, and having it leak on your hands or your shoes or the other items in your cart or basket. You also probably have heard a glass jar shatter in the next aisle followed by “Clean-up on Aisle 5” over the loudspeaker.
Spills happen in supermarkets. That’s just a fact of life. But the owner or operator of the supermarket is supposed to keep the store maintained and spills reasonably cleaned so that customers or employees don’t slip and fall.
A slip and fall in a grocery store can result in serious injuries. The floors are hard and usually pretty smooth, and even if there’s linoleum or some other surface, there’s usually concrete underneath. When you slip on something like a puddle on a smooth floor, you gain velocity that increases the force of your impact. If you hit the wrong way, you could break an arm, shoulder, kneecap, elbow, or leg. You could land on your back and end up with spinal cord or head injuries from the impact. When you slip, your body also can twist in unnatural ways that tears ligaments or cartilage such as your meniscus — a painful injury that can require surgery and a long recovery.
If you’ve been seriously injured by slipping, tripping, or falling in a supermarket, you may be able to make a claim for compensation if you can prove that the owner or operator was negligent in failing to either remove or warn you about the hazard that caused your fall. An experienced personal injury attorney can talk to you about your options for payment of your damages.
Common Causes of Supermarket Slips and Falls
There are a number of dangerous conditions that commonly cause customers or employees to slip, trip or fall in grocery stores.
- A mechanical failure could cause a refrigerator or freezer to leak and leave a wet puddle
- A punctured item could leak liquid or other product remains, such as granules of rice, on the floor and cause someone to slip
- Employees could fail to post a sign cautioning customers about wet floors after mopping or slippery floors after waxing
- Employees could leave obstacles or debris behind after stocking shelves
- Improper maintenance of the store could create hazardous code violations
Duties of a Supermarket Owner or Operator
The owner or operator of a supermarket is responsible to take reasonable action to keep the premises safe for employees and customers. That includes cleaning up spills in a reasonable amount of time or otherwise fixing problems that create dangerous conditions. They’re supposed to warn you when they know there’s a hazardous condition such as a wet floor.
If the supermarket owner or operator fails to correct or provide warnings about a known problem, that failure may be deemed negligence. Illinois has a law called the Premises Liability Act, 740 ILCS 130, that says you may be able to make a claim for compensation when the owner or occupier of the premises is negligent.
Challenges in Slip and Fall Claims
There are some exceptions when the supermarket owner or operator won’t be liable for your injuries. Your ability to make a claim may be affected when:
- You know about the hazardous condition before your injury
- The hazardous condition is open and obvious, meaning you should have been able to detect it
- The grocery store owner didn’t know about the hazardous condition and couldn’t have reasonably foreseen it
- You created the hazardous condition
The open and obvious hazard exception can be the hardest one to overcome when making a claim, but there are some circumstances in which even a hazard you should have seen doesn’t prevent you from receiving compensation. Say someone spilled red spaghetti sauce on a white floor and you come along and trip on it and are seriously hurt. Shouldn’t the bright color of the sauce have meant you noticed it before stepping in it? You may be forgiven for not noticing if the overhead light had gone out in the aisle — itself a condition the owner or operator should have fixed — and it was dark enough that you didn’t see the spill. If you were distracted by something, such as the store manager yelling at an employee nearby, the law also may consider it reasonable that you didn’t see the spill before slipping.
How a Lawyer Can Help
If you suffered serious injuries in a slip and fall in a supermarket, a Chicago premises liability attorney with experience handling these types of personal injury claims can help you with the process of investigating your accident and determining if you have a claim. Your attorney can represent you in negotiations with the business owner or operator and/or the owner or operator’s insurance company to get you full and fair compensation. Compensation for a slip and fall might include payment of your medical costs, disability and disfigurement, pain and suffering, lost wages, and loss of normal life.