Personal Injury Law (Accidents/Slip & Fall)/Injured at store
Hi. I was at a store 11/21/12 and while I was waiting to be attended an employee was behind me loading a tall heavy box containing a tv stand into one of the store's shopping carts. When she went to push the shopping cart out towards the exit of the store, it looks as if the box was so heavy that it tipped the cart over and the corner of the box struck me right on the center of my back hitting me right in the spinal cord area pushing me to lose my balance. I didnt hit the ground because I quickly reacted and was able to balance myself. I was shocked, embarassed and my child started crying when she realized that the box hit me and so unfortunately I did not have them write a report or call the ambulance for me. Right after it happened I started feeling pain and discomfort. I thought that I would just be sore for a bit. As the days went by the pain began to be more intense. I am very sore and stiff especially when I awake, I feel pain in my arms, shoulders, shoulder blades and neck, sometimes when I would laugh or cough my rib area in the back would hurt, Its hard to bend and reach low and I've had trouble finding comfort when during sleep. On Monday 11/26/12 I went to Patient First because of the pain. At first they told me that I had a fracture on my 3rd vertebre and that I needed to follow up with an orthopaedic doctor; however they then called me the next day stating that I didnt have a fracture after all and that I have mild degenerative scoliosis. I was advised that I should still see an ortho doctor and that the impact of the box must have triggered the scoliosis. I did see the ortho doctor and he says that I do have scoliosis and a lot of arthritis on one of my discs. I went to the store and explained what happened to the manager. He states that the manager that was there at the time of the incident never wrote an incident report. He contacted his boss and states that I should go there to write an incident report and that the claim would start from there on. I am really concerned because I feel so injured after that box hit me and Im afraid that they will not want to take responsibility for my injury. Should I contact a lawyer? What should I do to make sure that they pay for my health bill? Also wanted to mention to you that I will be having physical therapy soon and an MRI this month. Your advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you.
Julie: I get questions like your about slips and falls and all manner of injuries occuring in stores (grocery, big box, etc.) all of the time. In 90% of them my advice is that there is no case because (1) the store wasn't liable* or (2) the injury is not serious enough. In your case, the store was clearly liable as one of the employees directly caused your injury. They are 100% responsible. However, not having the report and an immediately investigation and documentation of the event done, you are a big problem. I realize that you didn't want to take the time, you had a child to care for etc. But now there is nothing to stop the store from just denying that it ever happened. They can do this. Or, what they will probably say it "well, we are sorry this happened but since you didn't inform us immedidately about the incident we didn't have the opportunity to find out what happened and so, we really can't accept responsibility". It will be a tough case in any event. Scoliosis and arthritis are both degenerative conditions. That is, they are caused by wear and tear and not trauma..........usually. A traumatic injury can cause onset of arthitis in a joint years after the injury of course.
\My advice is to go back to the store and demand to speak with the manager. Do your best to identify who the employees are that witnesses the accident or the aftermath. Demand that they be questioned about what happened. Identify the exact location of the accident so that they can review security videotapes. Unless you have a serious and disabliing injury that an ortho would say was caused directly by the incident, I don't think any lawyer will want the case.
If the store acknowledges what happened and accepts responsibility, which I doubt, then you will want to be compensated for any out of pocket medical expenses, at the least, and then some amount of damages for pain and suiffering but it is not known now what that might be because you don't know when you might recover.
More likely, the store will say they can't help. They know you won't find a lawyer because the injury is not severe and you have no evidence of what happened. They can just dismiss the entire matter. This is likely. In that event, best you can do is file a lawsuit on your own against the store in your local Small Claims Ct. for the limit allowed by your State laws. Simply tell the Judge what happened, describe the injury, document the injury and costs. You will win if the Judge believes you which he/she should. Considering what you have already suffered in terms of damages, there would be no problem having the maximum awarded to you. It is probably between 5-10K and you would have no legal expenses. Good luck
*A store is not responsible for an injury on the premises unless there was some kind of hazard that was FORESEEABLE to cause injury to someone, the store KNEW OR SHOULD HAVE KNOW ABOUT THE HAZARD and of course, failed to remove it. In other words, negligence. Of course if an employee caused the hazard or accident, they are responsible.