Question: I fell in a major grocery store. The adjuster keeps giving me the run-around about the store not being at fault. Can I sue the store and win?
Robert’s Answer: It all depends on the facts of your case. Slip and fall cases fall into the category of “premises liability.” Every property owner, especially commercial establishments like restaurants and grocery stores, has some duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition. However, a property owner is not automatically liable just because you get injured. You have to prove that the property owner was negligent in failing to keep their property safe. Likewise, the property owner only has to use reasonable care in the safe maintenance of the property.
The difficulty in these cases, however, arises because the injured plaintiff has the burden to prove that the property owner was negligent. The injured plaintiff must bring forth evidence that the property owner failed to use reasonable care. Just showing that there was a hazard is not enough. You have to prove that the hazard was something the property owner either knew of, or had a reasonable opportunity to discover.
So, in those cases where you slipped and fell on some random spill, it might be very difficult to show that the property owner was negligent unless you can prove that the spill was present for a sufficiently long enough period of time for it to be discovered and cleaned up. Most of the time, that evidence is not readily available to the plaintiff thereby making it very difficult to win these cases. The result, however, might be different, where you slipped in water from a plumbing leak or freshly mopped floor. Or, if you tripped on a broken floor tile or other physical defect on the property.
Here a couple things you need keep in mind. First, never give the adjuster any sort of statement about the accident. The adjuster will likely focus on the fact that you knew nothing about the spill, thereby sealing your fate. If the adjuster calls you, do not discuss the details of your case and just politely excuse yourself from the call. Second, if you have health insurance, use it to get the medical treatment you need. If you do not have insurance, you might be able to get treatment at your county hospital or at least get evaluated by your family doctor. Third, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for a free consultation and get some legal advice about your case. Don’t rely on the claims representative to advise you of your rights. They will tell you that they will take care of everything just so they can get you to give them a statement. Then they will use your own statement to deny your claim and leave you out in the cold.