Every person I talk to naturally assumes that if they go to a store and are injured while shopping there, that the store is automatically responsible for their medical bills and injuries. In reality, these types of cases are often some of the hardest to prove. There are many cases where the store should be held responsible, and many cases where they just aren’t at fault. So, how do you know if you really have a claim?
The first question I always need a client to answer is what exactly caused them to fall? “I don’t know” is not a good answer. In Indiana, our law recognizes that sometimes people fall down and get hurt without it being anyone’s fault. Sometimes, people really do just trip over their own feet. Therefore, we have to know what the unsafe defect or condition on the property was that caused the client to fall and get injured. For instance, there may be a puddle of water in front of a leaky freezer or a pallet sticking out in the middle of an isle. There could be ice left on a sidewalk or in the parking lot. All of these things are considered unsafe or defective conditions on the property.
Once we have identified the defective condition, we are still not done. There is a second step in the analysis. We also have to be able to argue that the property owner, “knew or should have known” about the unsafe condition. After we prove that a dangerous or defective condition existed on the property, we also have to prove that the store had notice of the dangerous condition. The issue of “Notice” is just as important to proving fault in a case as knowing what the dangerous condition was in the first place. A store can’t fix a problem that they couldn’t reasonably have known about and, thus, didn’t have a chance to do something about.
For example, ice being left on the store sidewalk two days after it snowed is a defective condition that the store knew about and had plenty of time to fix. However, it is harder to argue that the store had time to do something about the ice if someone went out in a winter storm to stock up on groceries. The law does not require a store to keep it’s premises perfect. Instead, they are only expected to use reasonable and ordinary care.
Premises liability cases are a common problem and thankfully there are lawyers available to help. We at Greene and Schultz have experience with premises liability and offer a free consultation. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you have questions.