More than 1 million people visit the emergency room for slip and fall accidents every year. That is 12% of the total number of falls that result in a trip to the hospital. No one enters a grocery store, such as Whole Foods, expecting to fall, but there are a surprising number of potential slip and trip hazards in such a high-traffic store. In Massachusetts, the harsh winter season presents danger in the parking lot as well. The injuries these accidents may cause range from mild embarrassment to broken bones and brain damage. If you or a loved one slipped, fell, and were injured at a Whole Foods store, you may have a chance to recover some of the losses incurred from your accident.
How a Slip and Fall Can Happen at Whole Foods in Massachusetts
All grocery stores present some element of unexpected danger due to the number of items on display. Items on the shelves may fall to the floor or bust open and spill out. Children in the store grab and drop things on the ground, and when you read labels or search for items, you are not always mindful of what is in front of your feet. Other examples of potential slip and fall hazards in a grocery store include:
- Loose or uneven floor tiles or floorboards
- Damaged or loose railing at the entrance
- Inadequate lighting or a damaged light fixture
- A missing, loose, or damaged step
- Cracked or uneven pavement in the parking lot or leading up to the entrance
- Neglect of regular maintenance
- An area under construction without proper signage or partitioning
- Rogue shopping carts in the parking lot or left in an aisle
- Placing pallets in an aisle to restock shelves
- Display stands stacked, arranged, or positioned in a way that obstructs pathways
Slip and falls are not the only potential hazard. Heavy or awkward items placed on high shelves may fall on unsuspecting shoppers. However, the most common way that shoppers sustain an injury at the grocery store is slipping and falling on spilled liquid left on the floor of an aisle or a public bathroom. Another consideration is the weather. According to the World Population Review, Massachusetts receives approximately 52 inches of snow every year with about five snow events during each winter month. Accumulations of snow and ice create dangerous parking lot conditions when left untreated, and the property line at Whole Foods includes all parking areas and walkways around the store.
Potential Injuries From a Slip and Fall Accident at Whole Foods
Some of the most common types of physical injuries associated with a slip and fall incident at Whole Foods include:
- Lacerations, punctures, and pinching or crushing of the hands
- Fractured or broken bones in the limbs, hips, pelvis, head, hands, wrists, ankles, and feet
- Head wounds, such as cuts, bruises, punctures, fractured skull or eye sockets, concussion, or other forms of traumatic brain injury caused by forceful impact
- Spinal cord or back injuries
Severe injuries are more common in the elderly and the handicapped.
Damages You May Recover
If you suffered an injury while shopping at a Whole Foods store, you could potentially recover compensation for the losses you incurred. There are three categories of damages in a personal injury slip and fall case: economic, non-economic, and punitive. Economic damages include:
- Medical bills for treatment of your injury
- Future medical bills for treatment
- Lost wages for missed work while healing
- Future lost wages or loss of earning capacity
- Damage to any personal property
- Any other out-of-pocket expenses, such as necessary changes to your home to accommodate your injury
Economic damages are easily calculated using medical bills, past paystubs, receipts, and estimated costs of future medical treatments. Non-economic damages are not numerical and require quantification. They include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish and emotional distress associated with the accident and with long-term or permanent disabilities, scarring, or disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
The numerical value of non-economic damages comes from assessing past cases of a similar nature, or precedent. Economic and non-economic damages are compensatory. Awarded compensation for compensatory damages is meant to try and make a person whole again. In certain situations, you may recover punitive damages, which are meant to punish the at-fault person for extremely egregious and neglectful behavior, but this is very rare.
Laws That Govern Slip and Fall Accidents in Massachusetts
There are three main laws that affect your slip and fall case in Massachusetts: premises liability, the statute of limitations, and comparative negligence.
Slip and fall injuries fall under the rule of a law called premises liability, which is used to determine who is liable for your injuries. Business owners and individuals are responsible for maintaining safe conditions on their property. If Whole Foods fails to meet this requirement and you sustain an injury as a result, you have the right to seek compensation either through an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit. In general, Whole Foods may face liability when you can prove:
- The property owner caused the unsafe condition that led to your accident.
- The property owner knew of the unsafe condition and failed to take action to correct it.
- The property owner should have known about the dangerous condition because a reasonable person would.
Whether or not the owner is liable for your injuries depends on several other factors specific to your case.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the law that dictates the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit in civil court. In Massachusetts, you have three years from the date of a slip and fall incident. If you try to file after the deadline passes, you should expect a dismissal of your case. In very rare cases where someone dies as the result of a slip and fall, a wrongful death lawsuit also falls under a three-year statute of limitations.
When you file a slip and fall lawsuit, you should expect the property owner to argue that you bear some responsibility for the fall. If you do bear some responsibility, the court uses Massachusetts’ modified comparative negligence rule to determine the amount of compensation you should receive. Modified comparative negligence rule states the percentage of fault held by the plaintiff is the percentage deducted from the awarded compensation. For example, if the value of your losses is $10,000 and you bear 20% of the responsibility for your accident, you will receive $8,000 in compensation. If you are more than 50% responsible, you are no longer eligible for compensation under modified comparative negligence.
How a Slip and Fall Injury Lawyer Can Help
Slip and fall cases are sometimes complicated because proving liability may be difficult. Hiring a slip and fall injury lawyer comes with many advantages because he or she has:
- Experience with the laws governing your case
- A better understanding of how to value your claim, specifically placing value on the noneconomic damages
- Will handle all interaction with the insurance company
- Will prepare your case for trial if it is necessary
- Has experience in negotiating personal injury settlements
The financial burden placed on the victims of personal injury can be immense. Jason Stone Injury Lawyers charge no upfront fee to get started on your case and help alleviate that burden. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures that we get paid only after you get paid. Contact Jason Stone Injury Lawyers today for a no-fee consultation.