The following is an expert answer given by Florida Premises Liability Lawyer, Joseph M. Maus, and taken from AllExperts.com, a free Q & A service on the internet:
Question: I walked into Walmart with my wife. I was pushing an empty cart and I slipped on some crushed strawberries in front of the check out lines on the tile. Apparently no employees saw me fall, but one saw me on the ground and came over to help. It seems I fell very fluid like, feet first, sliding forward and falling on my back, trying to grab the empty cart for support but it just fell on top of me instead. It looked like the strawberry had already been stepped on. I accidentally said to the employee who came over to help me, “I”m fine, I’m not going to press charges or anything.” I wonder if that will impede anything? I felt fine right after the fall, but later started to get soreness in my right shoulder muscle and my left arm was a little sore, too (the one I fell on). I first decided I would fill out an accident report with them, but decided to do it afterward. I got a copy of the report, but the assistant manager didn’t seem at all worried. I asked him what happens next and he said they would give me a call later to see how I was doing. Is it worth doing something about, given Walmart’s dispute reputation? I think it might only be soft tissue problems, but I fell on my back at a restaurant I worked for and thought it was nothing. It turns out I have had minor back problems since then, so I don’t want to just forget about something like this again if this is going to influence my enjoyment of life. Is it worth it to ask for an insurance settlement?
Answer: Your email does not indicate what state you are from. I am a Florida accident lawyer specializing in car accidents, Florida personal injury accidents such as slips and falls, and workers compensation claims. Laws vary from state to state, so you should always check with an experienced accident attorney in your area to get more information about your personal injury question.
Your injury situation is one that occurs to many people. You get injured, but think the injury will go away over time. Unfortunately, by the time most people realize that their injury is not going to go away, it is sometimes too late to bring a claim. If you were injured in this accident, even if it just aggravated a prior injury, you should speak to an experienced accident injury lawyer to pursue a claim.
Walmart’s reaction to your claim is not unusual. Keep in mind that Walmart has hundreds of very large stores in which thousands of shoppers go in and out of every day. Walmart’s employees deal with accidents like your every day. Walmart has a very detailed and specific employee handbook on how to deal with claims like yours. It is a pretty routine procedure for their employees.
However, just because you fell in a Walmart store, does not make Walmart responsible for your injuries. In Florida personal injury accidents, a store owner such as Walmart owes two duties to its customers – maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition, and to warn its customers of dangerous conditions that the customers cannot appreciate themselves. In order for a property owner such as Walmart to be responsible for a slip and fall due to food on the floor, the food must have existed on the floor for enough time that Walmart’s employees knew, or should have known, the food was there, i.e. and had a chance to clean it up or at least put out a warning sign letting the customers know of its existence. The fact that it appeared to you that another person had already stepped on the strawberry is one indication that it might have been there for a while. Another way to show Walmart should have known of the location and danger of the strawberry on the floor, is that it was sitting within view of the checkout clerks. You or your attorney will have to explore the facts of your case to see whether Walmart failed to maintain the store as it is required.
I don’t know when your accident happened, but it is best to explore making a claim soon after the accident occurred. If it occurred near the checkout counter, there may be store videotape that you would want to preserve. Walmart tapes over their store videotape on a regular basis so you need to request the videotape be preserved. You should also be looking for statements from any witnesses that may have seen you fall. Their names may be listed on the incident report.
In Florida personal injury accidents, you have four years from the date of the accident to bring a claim. However, you don’t want to wait that long as witnesses disappear and their memories fade, employee witnesses move on to different jobs, and evidence can be lost.
You should speak with an attorney specializing in slip and fall injury accidents in your area to see whether you should pursue a claim. Florida has a specific jury instruction for aggravations of pre-existing injuries, so the fact that you had a previous injury should not deter you from pursuing a claim from this accident. Also, an experienced slip and fall lawyer is going to know the laws in your area and how best to proceed. Most slip and fall lawyers handle cases on a contingent basis which means if the lawyer does not recover any money for your claim, there is no charge for costs or attorney’s fees. Also, most attorneys offer a free initial consultation, so you have nothing to lose in getting an expert opinion from a lawyer in your area.
Most attorneys that do this accident injury cases have handled cases against Wal Mart before. Experienced accident injury lawyers know that Wal Mart claims are handled out of Bentonville, AR by inhouse adjusters. As I mentioned above, they have a very lengthy employee handbook for how their employees are to handle incidents such as yours. If you want to contact Wal Mart yourself, you need to call them in AR and find the claim #, and the name of the adjustor assigned to handling the case. BUT – if you’re considering getting an attorney, I would do it before you speak to Wal Mart.
If you are in Florida, please give me a call at 1-866-556-5529. I have been specializing in Florida personal injury accidents claims including slip and fall cases for 16 years. If you’re in an area other than Florida, I can probably still refer you to an experienced slip and fall attorney in your area. Good Luck.
For more information about Florida personal injury accidents, contact Florida premises liability lawyer, Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529, visit his website at www.mauslawfirm.com, or email him today.