The holiday season and trips to busy stores go hand in hand. In the Midwest, the floors of these stores tend to be wet and slippery due to customers tracking in snow from outside. Slippery floors increase the risk of slip and fall accidents, but you shouldn’t be stuck with the expensive consequences of a poorly maintained floor.
Do accidents increase during holidays?
Slip and fall accident statistics from the CDC show that around 5,800 people visit the emergency room around the holidays.
While these types of falls can happen for many different reasons, there is a good chance that victims may be eligible for compensation. In this post, we discuss the nature of slip and fall accidents – and your options to recover damages for physical, mental, and financial losses.
Let’s dive in.
What is the Store Owner’s Responsibility?
Before we get into the details of slip and fall accidents around the holidays, we need to clarify the duty store owners have to patrons. Shopper safety is the top priority for business owners – and always will be.
Under the Illinois Premises Liability Act, property owners have a responsibility to ensure invitees (customers) and licensees (contractors) are safe from foreseeable injuries and keep the premises safe from hazards.
In a busy department store, this includes the following tasks:
- Keeping the aisles clear of hazards
- Making sure the floor is clean
- Ensuring the floor is not broken
- Providing adequate lighting (inside and outside)
- Placing appropriate signage until the hazard is cleared (wet floor signs)
- Providing proper training to employees to prevent slip and fall hazards
- Providing adequate tools to prevent slipping hazards (broom, mop, bucket, etc.)
- Maintaining proper company policies (handling snow, ice, spill cleanup, lighting, etc.)
If the property owner failed to perform these duties, victims of injuries can pursue a slip and fall lawsuit to cover damages for medical bills, lost wages, reduced quality of life, pain and suffering, and so on.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Big box stores are busy year-round, but the holiday season pushes this to the extreme. With a large increase in foot traffic, customers are trying to get in and out as quickly as possible – and employees are often overworked. This creates a plethora of risk factors, including (but not limited to):
The Midwest winters are characterized by freezing temperatures, snow, and ice. During the holiday season, all that snow and ice gets tracked into both residential and commercial buildings – with big box department stores usually getting the worst of it.
Department stores are obligated to keep high-traffic floors clear of water and slush, but they can only do so much during the busy holiday season. The chaotic, congested foot traffic paired with perpetually wet floors is one of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents.
On the flip side, sticky floors are another common occurrence during the hectic holiday season. To reiterate, department store staffs are frequently overworked – and are severely outnumbered by patrons.
Drinks, food, and other debris can easily end up on the floor and create a sticky surface. Employees might not be able to spot the hazardous area and clean it up promptly. A shopper’s shoe can become stuck in the sticky area and result in a fall.
Both the inside and outside of stores must be properly lit during business hours – especially after the sun goes down. This is very important in parking lots with black ice and snow. Employees and managers are required to change bulbs to ensure adequate lighting around the property.
If a lightbulb is burnt out and you slip on a patch of ice or wet surface, you may be eligible to file a slip and fall lawsuit against the establishment. Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn more about your options.
Oil and greasy surfaces are extremely dangerous in busy stores. Shoppers can potentially suffer permanent injuries – even when walking at slower speeds. There is no legitimate excuse for oils and greases to remain on the floors within a business establishment. Employees must clean the area and/or place caution cones immediately.
If the store does not take care of the hazard, victims of slip and fall accidents may be entitled to compensation from the store owner.
The large increase in foot traffic over the holidays puts a heavy strain on the floors of commercial buildings – not to mention all the added moisture tracked in. Wear and tear of the floor is a very common cause of slip and fall accidents, and the warning signs might not be obvious to store management.
These types of injuries can be extremely difficult to prove in a personal injury case. You’ll need to consult with a slip and fall accident lawyer to understand your legal recourse.
What are the most common injuries in a shop?
The potential for injury in slip and fall accidents is very large. Some of these injuries can be permanent and create lifelong hardships. As a Chicago injury law firm, some of the most common slip and fall injuries we see around the holidays include:
Breaks and Fractures
Slip and fall accidents commonly lead to broken bones and/or fractures. These injuries usually occur in the hands, pelvis, or arms during impact. Recovery times will depend on the severity of the break/fracture. Some minor fractures can heal in a matter of weeks, while larger breaks may take months – and lead to further complications.
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spine can suffer damage in many different ways. In a slip and fall accident, victims may land awkwardly on their back – which can lead to broken vertebrae, herniated discs, nerve injuries, and more.
Keep in mind, spinal injuries can be very, very severe. Recovery is typically a long and difficult road. If you suffered a spinal cord injury due to a property owner’s negligence, you need to file a slip and fall lawsuit to earn rightful compensation for medical bills, lost wages, reduced quality of life, and more.
Consult an experienced slip and fall accident lawyer to understand your options.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Most floors in big box department stores are hard tile. If you take a nasty fall in a busy store, hitting your head on the unforgiving floor can lead to a serious head injury. Some of these injuries can be permanent and create chronic pain.
If you hit your head in any capacity during the fall – you NEED to get examined by a medical professional as soon as possible. Some head injuries can take hours (or days) to show symptoms. Medical professionals are trained to spot the early signs of traumatic brain injuries and take proper action.
Slip and fall accidents sometimes result in the victim taking a faceplant on the floor. This can lead to broken teeth, a broken nose, a broken jaw, and so on. Facial injuries often lead to scars, which take a long time to heal.
Moreover, dental and facial surgeries are extremely expensive – even with insurance. If you suffered any damage to your mouth or face, you deserve compensation for the property owner’s negligence.
Cuts and Lacerations
Cuts and lacerations are very common in slip and fall accidents – especially if there is glass or other debris on the floor. Even surface-level cuts can lead to infections, while deeper cuts can potentially damage nerves and other tissue.
What to Do After a Slip and Fall Accident
Falling in a busy department store around the holidays can be extremely embarrassing. Your first instinct might be to leave the area as quickly as possible. However, doing this can impact your ability to seek compensation should you suffer an injury.
There are many steps to take following a slip and fall accident. Here are the most important ones to do immediately after.
Call for Help Immediately
If you believe you suffered an injury from a slip and fall accident, get the attention of the nearest employee to document the situation. Do not try to move if you are hurt badly, as this can exacerbate the injury or lead to further ones.
A store manager will begin the process of writing up an incident report with the details of the situation.
You’ll need to document your own evidence of the incident and everything that led to your fall. In a perfect world, the store manager will note any negligence that led to your accident. However, you cannot rely on this. The manager has a responsibility to protect the store from a slip and fall lawsuit.
Try to take pictures of the area – and focus on anything out of the ordinary. This may include water on the floor, broken tiles, improper lighting, etc. Be sure to get the contact information of any witnesses who saw the accident. This will be crucial when you file a personal injury case.
Seek Medical Attention
Whether you suffered minor or major injuries from the fall, you need to consult with a doctor as soon as possible – even if you don’t feel severe pain at the moment. A medical professional will assess your injuries and generate a report, including the severity of the issue and any additional treatment needed.
This will also play a key role in a personal injury case.
Start Building Your Case
The next step is to contact a slip and fall lawyer to begin the legal process. Using the evidence and reports provided from the previous steps, you will need to show:
- The property owner had a duty of care.
- The property owner breached that duty of care, which created a hazard.
- The hazard led to your slip and fall accident.
- You suffered injuries from the accident.
You will need to present the following to your attorney:
- The incident report.
- Your medical report.
- Witness accounts and statements
- Video/photographic evidence (store surveillance)
The slip and fall lawyer will instruct you on everything you need to hold the property owner accountable.
Speak with a Professional Store Accident Lawyer
With the holidays around the corner, the prospect of shopping during peak season is a stressful thought for anyone.
Accidents happen in crowded stores. It’s important to understand the law is on your side if the property owner neglected to provide a safe environment for patrons. There is a good chance you may be eligible for financial compensation if you suffered a slip and fall injury.
Keep in mind, big box stores have legal departments to avoid premise liability claims. You need an expert slip and fall lawyer to hold them accountable. Trying to represent yourself will almost certainly lead to a lowball settlement – if anything at all.
At Midwest Injury Lawyers, we help victims of slip and fall accidents recover damages from property owners. Whether you suffered an injury or simply want more information about personal injury law in Illinois, we are here to help.