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Is the Business Liable if You're Injured While Christmas Shopping in New Jersey?

  • December 03, 2021
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The rush to finish holiday shopping before Christmas is upon us, and many people are hurrying in and out of stores on a daily basis. With stores so busy and so much foot traffic passing through, it’s not unusual for an accidental injury to occur in the stores you’re shopping at. Slip-and-fall accidents in particular are very common in-store injuries, and while some of these falls are minor, others can cause serious pain. If you fall and injure yourself while shopping inside a New Jersey store, could the business be held liable for your injury? Here’s what you need to know.

You Should Always File an Incident Report

If you fall and injure yourself in a store, you should always speak with a store manager—and they should always file an incident report on it. It doesn’t matter how minor your injury is. Even if you feel fine after your fall; some injuries may take a day or two to fully present themselves, so it’s important that you always insist on filing a report.

You’ll need to provide the store manager with as many details of the incident as possible. While doing so, do not inadvertently place blame on yourself. For example, if you slip and fall on a spilled liquid, don’t say, “I was looking at my shopping list and didn’t see the puddle.” Some people will do this to try to diminish the incident and put the store manager at ease, but it’s best to stick to the facts. Don’t speculate that you would have been fine if you hadn’t been looking at your list. Simply state, “There was a spill on the floor on Aisle 3, and when I stepped in it, I slipped and fell.”

Read the incident report in its entirety to ensure it’s accurate before you sign it. Additionally, be on the lookout for a liability release, which will prevent you from pursuing damages. If you’re ever in doubt, don’t sign anything. Request a copy of the incident report and the store’s insurance information for your records.

Try to Speak to Witnesses

Just as with an auto accident, witnesses to the incident are invaluable in establishing whether or not the store was at fault in your injury. (We’ll discuss establishing fault a bit later.) Ask anyone who witnessed your injury to write down what they saw, then sign and date the statement. Alternatively, you can collect their contact information and ask if they’d be willing to describe the incident later if needed. Remember that bystanders will be better witnesses, rather than the people who were with you or the store employees, who might have alternative motives to bend the truth.

Take Photos of the Cause

Usually, the cause of an accident is very clear—but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way for long. Spills get cleaned up, debris gets removed, flooring gets repaired, and that clear cause of your injury can disappear. These kinds of cases can take time, and it’s helpful to have visual evidence of the circumstances that caused your injury. For example, let’s say that you tripped due to damaged linoleum flooring in the store. By the time the store’s insurance company follows up, the flooring has been repaired, so they claim that there was no negligence on the store’s part and you’re not entitled to a settlement.

These are the kinds of tactics that insurance carriers will use to avoid making a payout to an accident victim. You can avoid these frustrating situations by ensuring that you have your own evidence. Take a photo of whatever it is that caused you to trip. That way, no matter what changes happen in the store, you will always have proof on hand.

Establishing Retail Store Negligence

Now that we’ve talked about the steps you should take immediately after a fall in a store, let’s talk about why these steps are important. This type of documentation and follow-through helps to establish fault and show that the store was negligent in a way that led to your injury. Failure to clean up spills in a timely manner, disregarding damaged flooring, and other such accidents are negligent; stores have a responsibility to maintain their premises so that they are safe for their patrons. With a timely incident report, witness statements, and photographic evidence, your case to establish negligence will be much stronger.

If you’ve been injured while out holiday shopping, we invite you to reach out to us. At Selem Antonucci Law, we’re familiar with the tactics stores and their insurance providers use to deny fault and displace blame for injuries on their premises. We’ll help you to receive the compensation you deserve for your injury. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, compassionate attorneys today.

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