As one of millions of customers who shop in Walmart every day, you expect the store to be safe and free of hazards. When Walmart invites hundreds of people into one of its stores, things can get a bit frenzied. Food containers get spilled on tiled floors, merchandise can clutter aisleways, and door mats at the sliding entrance doors can easily buckle. When these issues arise, management must act quickly to clean up messes, clear pathways, or warn customers about potential hazards. When they fail to do so, and someone slips, falls, and suffers an injury, the injured customer shouldn't be stuck paying their own medical bills.
Many businesses hit with slip and fall claims pay injured customers through their liability insurance. But Walmart, being the behemoth discount megastore that it is, handles its own liability claims instead. Sure, Walmart has deep pockets. However, handling their own claims allows the company to play hardball with injured customers and shortchange them out of the compensation they deserve. If you were injured in a Walmart, a slip and fall attorney in Tampa can help you secure fair compensation.
How Deep Are Walmart’s Pockets?
Walmart is a financial powerhouse. It’s the world’s largest company in terms of revenue, raking in approximately $611 billion annually, as well as the world’s largest employer. There are over 11,000 Walmart stores and clubs worldwide, nearly half of which are in the U.S. Tampa is home to about a dozen stores. Over 37 million customers shop in Walmart every day.
You’d think a company whose success lies with its customers would be quick and generous when compensating customers injured in their stores due to management’s negligence. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
What are Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents at Walmart?
Slip and fall accidents can occur in Walmart for various reasons, often due to hazardous conditions or negligence on the part of the store or its employees. Some common causes of slip and fall accidents in Walmart stores include:
- Spills of liquids or food products that are not promptly cleaned up
- Floors that have been recently mopped or waxed without proper warning signs
- Cracked or broken tiles
- Uneven walkways or pavement
- Loose or torn carpeting
- Poorly lit areas that make it difficult for customers to see hazards on the floor
- Merchandise or pallets left in walkways, making it difficult to navigate and increasing the risk of tripping
- Entryways that do not have proper mats or non-slip surfaces to prevent tracking moisture inside
- Staircases or ramps without proper handrails or with damaged handrails
- Failure to post warning signs to alert customers to potential hazards or recently cleaned areas
- Produce sections where fruits or vegetables may create a hazard if dropped and not promptly cleaned
- Merchandise that falls from shelves or displays, creating obstacles or hazards in the aisles
- On busy shopping days, such as Black Friday, crowded conditions can increase the likelihood of accidents due to reduced space and congestion
- Employees not properly trained in safety procedures and hazard recognition
To establish liability in a slip and fall case, it is essential to prove that the store or its employees were negligent and that their negligence led to the hazardous conditions that caused the accident.
How Do I Hold Walmart Liable for My Slip and Fall Accident Injuries?
State law doesn’t allow you to recover damages simply because of the fact that you fell in a Walmart and suffered injuries. You’re required to prove that Walmart was negligent. To do that, you’ll need to establish several key elements, including:
Duty of Care
You must establish that Walmart owed you a duty of care as a customer or visitor to maintain a reasonably safe environment within its store. This duty of care is a legal obligation to take reasonable measures to prevent accidents and injuries.
Breach of Duty
You need to demonstrate that Walmart breached its duty of care by failing to maintain safe premises or by allowing hazardous conditions to exist. Common examples include:
- Failure to clean up spills promptly
- Negligent maintenance of flooring, such as broken tiles, loose carpeting, or uneven surfaces
- Inadequate warning signs or barriers to alert customers to potential hazards.
You must show that the hazardous condition directly caused your slip and fall accident and subsequent injuries. Establish a clear link between Walmart's breach of duty and your injuries.
Notice of the Hazard
You need to prove that Walmart had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazardous condition. There are two types of notice:
- Actual Notice: Walmart knew about the hazard before your accident occurred.
- Constructive Notice: Walmart should have known about the hazard through reasonable inspection and maintenance practices. For example, if a spill was on the floor for an extended period without cleanup, it may imply constructive notice.
Reasonable Time to Address the Hazard
You should demonstrate that Walmart had a reasonable amount of time to discover the hazard and take corrective action before your slip and fall occurred. This may involve examining their policies and practices for safety inspections and maintenance.
To pursue a personal injury claim, you must have suffered damages as a result of the slip and fall accident. This may include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages or earnings, and other losses.
Your case hinges on proving that Walmart's negligence, in the form of a breach of its duty of care, directly led to your injuries. Negligence is the core legal concept in establishing liability.
How the Slip and Fall Claims Process Works at Walmart
If your case meets the necessary requirements, you’ll need to file an accident claim. Walmart is self-insured, and it even has its own claims company known as Claims Management, Inc. (CMI). CMI’s job is to defend Walmart in personal injury lawsuits.
When you file a claim with CMI, the company's adjusters will investigate your accident. You can expect that, as part of this effort, a CMI representative will be phoning you soon after your accident "just to see if you're feeling better and to get your side of the story." Never give anybody from CMI or anywhere else any type of a written or recorded statement. No matter what that individual says, state law doesn't require you to give them any type of a statement. If you do, it's highly likely that they will use your words against you and significantly devalue your own claim.
When you're trying to resolve your claim through CMI, you can expect unreturned phone calls and unanswered emails. CMI wants you to fall in arrears with your medical and personal bills. It's all part of an effort to make you desperate so that you settle quickly and cheaply.
Never accept a settlement offer from CMI without consulting a lawyer first. Better yet, contact a lawyer as soon as possible after a slip and fall accident and have them handle any communications with CMI. A lawyer will help protect your rights and ensure the insurance company doesn’t devalue or deny your claim.
What Should I Do if I Slip and Fall in Walmart?
If you are injured in a slip and fall accident in Walmart, there are several steps you should take to ensure your safety and improve your chances of recovering compensation for your medical bills and other losses. Here's what you should do:
- Notify management: The first thing that you need to do is to ask another shopper or an employee to get the store manager so you can make a report. They will create an incident report, which can be important for documenting the incident.
- Seek immediate medical attention if necessary: Your health and safety should be the top priority. If you are seriously injured, call 911 or ask someone to do so. Even if your injuries seem minor, it's a good idea to get checked by a medical professional, as some injuries may not be immediately apparent.
- Gather information: While at the store, collect as much information as possible, including:
- Take photos of the area where the accident occurred, including the hazard that caused your fall (e.g., a spill, uneven surface, or debris).
- Get the names and contact information of any witnesses who may have seen the incident.
- Ask for the names and badge numbers of the Walmart employees who responded to the incident.
- Document your injuries: Take photos of any visible injuries you sustained in the fall, such as bruises, cuts, or swelling.
- Preserve evidence: Keep the clothing and shoes you were wearing at the time of the incident as potential evidence, as they may show signs of the accident. Do not wash or alter them until you consult with an attorney.
- Consult an attorney: If you believe the slip and fall may be due to negligence on the part of Walmart, consult with a Tampa personal injury attorney. They can help you understand your rights, assess the strength of your case, and guide you through the legal process if you decide to pursue a claim.
- Keep records: Maintain detailed records of all medical treatment related to your injuries, including medical bills, prescriptions, and doctor's notes. This information will be important if you decide to seek compensation for your injuries.
- Avoid making statements: Be cautious about making statements to Walmart or their insurance company without first consulting an attorney. What you say could be used against you in the future.
- Follow the advice of your attorney: If you decide to pursue a claim, follow the guidance of your attorney to build a strong case and seek appropriate compensation.
Injured in a Walmart Slip and Fall Accident? Contact a Lawyer Today.
CMI adjusters know that on your own, you stand little or no chance against their team of personal injury lawyers. You need to even the playing field if you want a fair outcome. The slip-and-fall lawyers at Hancock Injury Attorneys deal with insurance companies every day. We’re not afraid to stand up to corporate giants to fight on behalf of our clients. Contact us today to discuss your case during a free consultation.