Q. I recently slipped in a grocery store because a stock clerk left water on the floor after stocking produce. I fractured my hip and spent six months in physical therapy. My medical bills are outrageous, and I've lost a lot of income while I was at home healing. Does the grocery store have to pay me for these losses?
A. Anytime you or a loved one has survived a serious accident or injury, medical concerns must come first, but serious injury also often means loss of a household income. You now likely find yourself wondering where the money will come from to pay medical bills, mortgages and other household expenses. Covering these expenses and compensating you for your pain and suffering is the point of a personal injury lawsuit. Ultimately, such a lawsuit forces the party responsible for the accident to make full and complete financial restitution to the injured person.
Usually, if you are unable to resolve matters with the owners of the store where you fell, you can make a claim with their insurer. However, as I've touched on in a prior article, insurance companies have a reputation for offering settlement amounts that do not consider all of a family's financial needs in the wake of a serious or catastrophic personal injury, especially if the accident resulted in severe disability or permanent injury.
If you are unable to work out an agreeable settlement with the store or its insurance company, you will then have to file a lawsuit. Your slip-and-fall case is very common, and is probably the type of case most personal injury (PI) lawyers will be involved in at some point in their career. A lawsuit for your type of case involves claims of simple negligence, premises liability and possibly a failure to properly train, monitor and/or supervise employees. Each of these claims will require that you prove certain elements in court. For instance, to prevail under a theory of 'negligence' you must prove, in part, that the Defendant owed the injured Plaintiff a duty, was careless and that carelessness caused the injury in question. Further, the Plaintiff must prove damages, such as pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.
A business owner owes a duty to its customers to maintain its premises in a safe condition, so the grocery store owed you a duty to do just that. In leaving water on the floor, the Defendant breached this duty and acted carelessly if the Defendant (or one of its employees) knew or should have known of the presence of the water. In such a setting, a grocery store frequented by customers, a store should take steps to make sure that its floor is clean and clear of debris and water. In the produce section where most of the vegetables are regularly sprayed with water or stocked while wet, it is foreseeable that water could accumulate on the floor. At best, the employee simply forgot to check to see if the floor was wet after stocking the produce; at worst, the employee saw the water but did nothing to clean it up. Either way, the defendant knew or should have known of the danger.
Since the wet floor was the cause of your fall, the fall was the cause of your injury, and your injury caused your lost wages, you are able to establish the remaining factors of a claim for negligence. With those facts, and a quick review of your medical records, I would be comfortable filing a lawsuit on your behalf against the grocery store seeking to make them pay your medical bills, lost wages and compensation for pain and suffering.
Hope you are well on your way to recovery.