So you're walking around a major discount store on a Saturday afternoon and you just wiped out in front of a large crowd of people. After brushing yourself off, you turn around and see a glossy sheen on the tile behind you just as a store employee comes to assist you. At second glance, you notice a bottle of shampoo with a cracked cap under a shelf beside the sheen.
As you attempt to get up, pain sears up your lower back. At this point, while your first impulse tells you to leave the store, it is important that you obtain the names and contact information of anyone who witnessed you fall. You should also be mindful of anything that you say to store employees that is being placed in an incident report. Further, you should only agree to provide information for an incident report if you will be given a copy of the report.
Next, you should obtain immediate medical attention to evaluate any injuries that you may have incurred from your fall and seek appropriate treatment. Keep in mind that some of your pain may be masked by an adrenaline buildup from experiencing your unexpected fall. (To learn more, read our How Adrenaline Masks Injuries). Immediately following the incident, you should have your case evaluated by a Matthews Slip and Fall Injury Lawyer to determine whether you have a plausible claim to obtain monetary damages from the discount store to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages from missed work due to your injuries, as well as pain and suffering.
In North Carolina, an owner or tenant of real property (both residential and commercial) owe lawful entrants on their property a duty to make reasonable inspections of their property, and a duty to take reasonable measures to avoid injury to persons on the property caused by dangerous conditions of which the landowner is aware or should be aware of (upon reasonable inspection). Thus, in the scenario above, a retail establishment such as the discount store that is held open to the public for services has a duty to make the property safe. The duty imposed is to warn patrons of dangerous conditions or to correct them. The owner must at least warn of dangerous conditions that are not obvious to visitors.
While you may have slipped and fell in the discount store and incurred injuries, your claim for damages can be eliminated entirely if you are found to be just 1% at fault for causing your own fall. This is due to North Carolina's outdated Contributory Negligence Defense. (To learn more, read our Contributory Negligence). Additionally, the discount store may assert the "Open and Obvious" Defense if the sheen that you slipped in was readily apparent. (This determination will depend on relevant facts and circumstances in your particular case) Finally, other defenses may arise in your claim, such as in evaluating factors like how long the sheen was on the tile and whether it was reasonable for a manager or store employee to have noticed the sheen on the floor in the amount of time that the sheen was on the floor. A great example of where the length of time a hazardous condition existed was evaluated and determined with circumstantial evidence was in the classic banana peel slip and fall case, Anjou v. Boston Elevated Railway Co., 94 N.E. 386 (Mass. 1911). In this case, the plaintiff proved that the Railway Company was liable for her injuries that she incurred from slipping on a banana peel on the company's property, because the banana peel she slipped on was black, dry and gritty and appeared to have been trampled on. Here, it was apparent that the banana had been on the ground for a while and should have been removed had a reasonable inspection of the premises for hazardous conditions been performed by the Railway Company.
As you can see, your case can stand or fall on one minute detail. Therefore, we strongly encourage you to seek the advice of a licensed North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney before you decide to pursue or not to pursue a claim for your injuries. To schedule a consultation today, contact Panchenko Law Firm, PLLC FOR FREE CASE EVALUATION!