Shoppers are injured in stores more often than many people realize. Retail outlets contain many hidden dangers including slippery or uneven floors, objects that can fall from shelves, and defective carts.
If you get hurt inside a grocery store in Maryland you may be able to file a lawsuit against the store owner, a management company or another party. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our attorneys help people who suffer injuries at businesses. Grocery stores are one of the most hazardous businesses because they are busy and dynamic places.
The shelves are constantly refilled and stores stock many items that can be slip hazards when they end up on the floor. The law relating to injuries at a business such as a store is called premises liability.
These cases can be difficult to fight. Even though you may incur thousands of dollars in medical bills, insurance companies and their adjusters often dispute liability.
Maryland’s grocery stores may not be inherently dangerous but we often hear about stores adopting a lax approach to shopper safety. It’s important to hire an attorney who has considerable experience in premises liability cases in Maryland.
Your Rights if You Get Hurt Inside a Grocery Store in Maryland
The owner or operator of a grocery store has a duty to provide a safe environment to shoppers and other people who are on lawfully on the premises. The duty owed to someone who is in a store depends on the status of the injured person.
Maryland law divides people who are on the property into invitees, licensees, and trespassers. The duty that a landowner or a property owner owes to a person in their store or on their property depends on which of these categories the person falls into.
If you are invited onto a property, you receive the highest level of protection. This applies to any shoppers who are in a store during normal opening hours. An invitee is at a store, a hotel, a restaurant or other premises for a purpose related to the owner’s business.
Their trade benefits the store owner. Property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to keep the premises safe and to protect people who are invited from dangers that they might not discover on their own.
Licensees are also protected but the store has fewer obligations to them than invitees. They include social guests and other people who have permission to be on the property but are not invitees.
A delivery driver who drops off supplies at a store is an example. Although the store owner or operator does not necessarily owe a duty to a licensee to keep the store safe, he or she must warn of dangerous conditions that are not easily discoverable.
For example, someone making a delivery to the warehouse behind the store cannot expect the environment to be as safe as the public areas of the store but the store owner must warn of a large hole that recently opened up in the cement floor.
A store has no obligation toward a trespasser under common law, which is the basis of the U.S. legal system that developed years ago in England. A trespasser intentionally enters a property without the permission of the owner.
In Maryland, business owners or landowners owe no duty to trespassers other than avoiding willful or wanton conduct that hurts the trespasser. There are some exceptions under laws that oblige landowners to secure dangerous properties like swimming pools from child trespassers.
Your rights, if you get hurt inside a grocery store in Maryland, depending on your status. Most people who suffer injuries are shoppers who receive the highest level of protection under the law. That does not mean a lawsuit you file against a grocery store will be straightforward or easy.
Common Ways You Can Be Injured in a Grocery Store in Maryland
There are many ways shoppers can be injured in grocery stores. They include the following.
Slip and Fall on Spilled Produce or Recently Cleaned Floors
Many liquids and other sticky substances are spilled in stores ranging from wine to peanut butter and cleaning fluids. If a shopper knocks over a liquid and another shopper slips on it and hurts himself, a store may not necessarily be held responsible.
Store workers should have been made aware of the problem. However, if workers at the store are warned of the problem and ignore it before a shopper slips and sustain a head injury, the store could be held liable.
A store could also be held liable if its staff is not looking out for spilled when they should be. Employees at stores should be aware of particular hazards related to their line of business.
For example, people who work at a pet store where shoppers bring dogs should be prepared to clean up feces in a timely manner. Slip and fall injuries are among the most common premises liability claims.
When cleaning workers mop or polish floors, these slick surfaces are a clear danger to shoppers. For obvious reasons, cleaners should not be polishing floors during normal shopping hours unless they are working on a spill.
However, areas like bathrooms are often cleaned throughout the day. Cleaners should provide prominent warnings of the slip hazard.
Slips on Carpets and Dangerous Mats
Some stores have been successfully sued for injuries caused by falls on dangerous carpets and mats. Worn and ripped carpets can be a hazard as well as rubber mats.
Often store owners fail to realize the inherent danger of flooring, particularly for older people. You are unlikely to slip on dangerous mats or carpets in big chain stores that have uniform safety standards but we often see hazardous flooring in smaller, locally owned stores in Maryland.
Stairs that are crumbling or fail to comply with safety standards often lead to lawsuits. Slips and falls on stairs can be extremely serious and life-threatening. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries.
Stores should provide warnings about steps in unexpected places and make sure ramps and other features comply with local building codes.
Stores are responsible for stacking produce in a safe manner. If a worker places a heavy item like a microwave oven on a high shelf and the shelf gives way, causing the item to fall on a shopper, the store is clearly liable.
The example of a heavy item on a high shelf is a clear case of store negligence, but the dangers to shoppers may be less obvious at stores. In 2017, a jury in Alabama awarded $7.7 million to a man who said he tripped and broke his hip while he was buying a watermelon at a Walmart store. A report in Insurance Journal noted the man’s foot became trapped in a pallet beneath the watermelons as he tried to reach one of the fruit.
Defective Shopping Carts
We have all picked up a shopping cart with a defective wheel or another issue. However, shopping carts may be hazards. In 2016, an elderly woman in Tennessee injured her knee and required hip surgery after she fell when a wheel came off her shopping cart at a Kroger store in Memphis. A jury awarded the woman $2.7 million against Kroger.
Ice Outside a Store
Ice outside a store or in a parking area can be a slip and fall hazard. Stores have a duty to clear ice and snow from outside their premises. However, these cases can be tricky because icy conditions may be obvious to a shopper.
Dangerous Elevators and Escalators
Elevators and escalators are common causes of injury. They may malfunction or be of an inherently dangerous design. People hurt in Maryland elevator accidents often suffer broken bones and even more serious injuries. The majority of elevator accidents are related to door malfunctions, and misalignment with floors.
Poor lighting in a grocery store can be a cause of a premise liability action if it causes a shopper to slip in the half light and sustain an injury.
Crimes in Stores
The obligation of store owners and managers to maintain a safe environment includes protecting shoppers from criminals. Security officers in grocery stores and malls have an obligation to make sure they are not used as meet up locations for gangs and other criminals.
The danger must be foreseeable for a store to be liable, though. Many crimes in stores are random and unforeseen. However, if a store has a track record of violent incidents against shoppers and failed to improve security, someone who is injured may have grounds to sue the store.
What if You Are Partly to Blame for the Supermarket Injury?
Maryland has a strict contributory negligence law. This means if an injured party is any way to blame for their accident, they are barred from recovering compensation. This can be tough on people who are hurt in grocery stores.
People who fail to see warning signs or are distracted by their smartphones when they slipped on spilled substances at a store, will face an uphill battle to make a claim.
What to Do After You Are Injured at a Grocery Store in Maryland
Some of the things you should do immediately after an accident with injuries in a grocery store in Maryland are the same as after a car accident. You should:
- Seek Medical Help – Always go to a doctor as soon as you can after an accident, particularly if you believe you may have to take legal action. Injuries are not always obvious from the outset. It may take a day or two for serious pain to set in. If you delay it may be difficult to prove your injury was caused by a fall at a store or a falling object.
- Document Your Experience – Write down your memories as soon as possible after the accident. If you wait for months, you may forget key facts. These details can prove important in a subsequent legal case.
- Examine the Premises – Look around the location where the accident took place. Take pictures and document everything. Get video of a spill with no warning signs.
- Talk to Witnesses of the Incident – Get names, contact details, and statements from people who witnessed the accident and may have helped you. It’s almost impossible to track down witnesses after an incident.
- Report the Incident – Report the incident to the store manager and also notify law enforcement if possible. It’s important to take accidents at stores seriously.
Talk to a Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer About Grocery Store Accidents
Claims by people who get hurt in grocery stores in Maryland are tough to make. Big retailers fight legal action hard. These claims are typically only worth making if you suffered a significant injury and the store was wholly at fault.
You should hire an experienced Maryland personal injury lawyer to help you with your claim. We will ask the hard questions of retailers and seek out evidence like video footage before a store can destroy it.
Please contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras as soon as possible at 410-834-1350.