If you have been injured in an accident at a business, you may be entitled to compensation. Each case is different so your claim depends on the liability of the business and the extent of your injuries. If you have been injured at a business, there will be insurance available to cover your losses. Most businesses carry medical payment insurance that will cover your medical bills and liability insurance that will pay for the remainder of your losses.
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we specialize in claims against businesses. There are multiple legal avenues available to recover compensation against a business. We have handled countless claims against businesses and their insurance companies. This article has been written to educate you on what types of claims are available and how the process works.
Business owners have a duty to keep their property safe to customers and other invited guests. They must regularly maintain the property and correct hazardous conditions. Some examples of these responsibilities are as follows:
Any liquid or water on the floor must be cleaned. There should be safety mats for the wiping of feet at the entrance and exit. Any wet areas need to be marked with a wet floor or caution sign.
Any cracks or tripping hazards on the sidewalks must be repaired to prevent people from falling. If there is a known crack, uneven surface, or a hole, a warning sign must be placed by it.
There must be lighting in the parking lot sufficient that a customer can see. The lighting also serves as a deterrent from criminals in the parking lot who may want to harm a customer. The parking lot also must be maintained in a manner so that it is kept free from carts and other hazards such as cracks and holes.
A business must make sure that its merchandise is properly stacked to avoid falling on a customer. It also must ensure that the aisles are free from obstruction.
The doors of a business must function properly. Automatic doors are a major safety issue because they do not always work properly. You would be surprised at how many people are injured when automatic doors close on people and cause serious injuries.
Examples of Injuries at a Business
I have compiled a list of some examples of injuries at businesses. This list is not exclusive, but is a sample of some of the cases that I have handled over the years at St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas.
- Slip and Falls onto either concrete, blacktop, or a hard store floor
- Elevator or escalator injuries
- Shopping cart injuries
- Falling merchandise or improperly stocks goods
- Cuts and lacerations from sharp edges
- Automatic door malfunction causing someone to be crushed
- Injuries in the parking lot from cracked pavement
- Injuries on sidewalks from cracked and raised surfaces
- Trip and fall on pallets or other merchandise being stocked
- Assault or battery in the parking lot
Why You Were on the Property Matters
You will only be covered for your injuries if you were on the property for specific purposes. The first is if you were an invitee. This means that you had an express or implied invitation to be on the property. Examples of an invitee are customers or even people on the property to do repairs. Any legitimate business interest is considered to be an invitee. The second class who may be covered are people who are licensees. These people are invited onto the property, but not for business purposes. They can be social guests, friends, or even children.
The class of people who will not be covered for an accident at a business is a trespasser. Trespassers do not have permission to be on the property, therefore the business does not owe them any duty.
How to Prove the Business is to Blame
Even if you were lawfully on the property and had a legitimate reason for being there, the business must still be at fault in order for you to recover compensation. This means that the business was negligent in some fashion that led to your accident. To prove the business was at fault, you must show:
- that the business through its manager, employees of agents knew a dangerous condition existed or could exist;
- that there was a reasonable amount of time for the business to fix the dangerous condition or warn you about it;
- that the dangerous condition caused your injuries;
- you were unaware of the dangerous condition and couldn’t have prevented the accident;
- you did not contribute or cause the accident;
- you didn’t agree to assume the risk that an accident could occur.
How to Make a Strong Claim
In order to have a strong claim against the insurance company for the business, you must make sure you don’t give them an opportunity to question or deny anything. My philosophy is that you need to spoon feed the insurance adjusters the evidence supporting your claim to make it as easy as possible to pay you. But, that means taking several necessary steps along the way.
Report the Incident to the Business Immediately
It is imperative to place the business on notice of the accident while you are still on the property. This allows the business to investigate and create an incident report. It is important that the business sees what caused the accident because they will be reporting everything to the insurance adjuster. This also will allow them to interview witnesses and preserve any video.
Get Immediate Medical Treatment
Getting seen by a doctor immediately is just as important as reporting the incident. Go to a hospital or urgent care as soon as possible to report the injuries. I do not recommend that you take an ambulance. After your initial visit, you then must seek follow-up treatment and make sure to follow your doctor’s advice.
Get Witness Information
Don’t rely entirely on the business to help you prove the case. If there were witnesses, get their contact information. You simply can’t count on the business to take down all of the information because they will rarely be working in your best interest.
At the scene, take pictures of what caused the accident and of any witnesses. For example, if you fell on something wet on the floor, photograph it as well as the employee of the business mopping it up. If you have visible injuries, make sure you take pictures of them. The photos of your injuries should be taken over time to show how it heals and whether a scar remains.
Contact a Local Business Accident Attorney
Accidents at businesses happen every day. These accidents commonly cause broken bones, back and neck injuries, knee injuries and sprains and strains. I have observed that another common injury from slip and falls are torn hamstrings. I recommend hiring an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident. The attorney will be able to communicate with the insurance adjuster immediately to learn more about their position. I do not recommend that anyone speaks directly to the insurance adjuster after the accident before consulting with the attorney. The insurance companies will try to persuade you not to hire a lawyer or offer you a small amount of money to go away. Do not take the bait.
If you have been injured in an accident at a business and would like to discuss setting up a claim, please contact me at St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas for a free consultation.