If you have shopped anywhere in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellingham, Olympia, or Washington State in general, you have surely seen large pallets of goods and merchandise stocked on shelves high above you where you are shopping. This is particularly true at places like Walmart, Target, Safeway, Home Depot, Loews, QFC and other grocery stores. Most of the time there is never an issue at all, but on occasion this merchandise falls from overhead and injures someone.Falling Merchandise at Stores
If merchandise is stacked very high up in the air, it may be as high as several feet off the uppermost shelf, making it dozens of feet high in the air. As long as the merchandise is secure, there is no problem. However, there are occasions when it is not, when the merchandise is not secured properly, which causes a risk to people as the boxes and merchandise may fall and strike a customer.
While there is no precise number of people who have been harmed by merchandise at stores, it is estimated that as many as 750,000 people have been injured by falling merchandise in the past decade, with somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 accidents at stores occurring annually. When large boxes or items fall from a great height, if the object lands on your neck, back, or shoulders, the injuries can be catastrophic.Business Owners’ Responsibility to Customers
Business owners, whether it’s the owner of a Safeway or Walmart, has a duty to make sure that their stores are safe. This is true for merchandise that is not securely in place to keep from falling and injuring people. The law in Washington State is very clear on the duty that a business owner has to customers. The second Restatement of Torts, section 343, from 1965 summarizes the applicable law for falling merchandise.
This law is still good law today. The law states, in layman’s terms, that an owner of a business is only liable to a customer if the owner knows of the dangerous condition, or reasonably could know, that the merchandise poses a risk of danger and the customer would not ordinarily discovery the danger, and finally, that the owner failed to use reasonable care to stop or keep the danger from harming someone.
To put it simply, if you have been injured by falling merchandise, you must be able to show that the injury occurred because you did not reasonably know about the danger, the owner either knew or reasonably should have known about the danger, and the owner didn’t take reasonable steps to prevent the dangerous event from happening.
Depending on the circumstances and facts of your case, it might be helpful to hire an expert to help you show that you were not at fault for the accident and that you reasonably could not have known about the falling merchandise given your line of sight, since you were presumably looking straight ahead or downward at the merchandise on the shelf and not looking up at the merchandise overhead when it fell on you.Steps to Help Your Falling Merchandise Case
After you have been injured at a store for falling merchandise, there are certain steps you should take to help your case. Obviously, first and foremost you need to get the medical attention you need to recover. Once you are medically stable, here’s what you need to do. You need to make sure you fill out a report with the store where you were injured detailing how you were injured.
They will likely get you their insurance company’s information. From there, you need to submit your medical bills to your health insurance company so you can make sure they are paid. It is not likely that the department store or grocery store or Home Depot’s insurance company will pay your medical bills, though they might. You should be mindful of what you are posting on social media since this could be discoverable if you are posting about the accident or your injuries.
You should make a request for any surveillance video that might have captured the merchandise falling and obtain the witness information for anyone who might have seen the accident happen. Finally, it’s a good idea to make sure you are recording your injuries in a diary somewhere so you can remember what you went through if it takes a year or two to settle your case.Common Injuries from Falling Merchandise
If you have been injured by falling merchandise at a department store, whether it is Home Depot or Lowes, you need to seek immediate medical care from a qualified and experienced doctor. This might be your family doctor or primary physician, but you may also need to see a specialist such as a neurologist or a chiropractor physical therapist. These specialties can help you recover. The most common injuries from falling merchandise are:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Head injuries
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Whiplash injuries
The Jackman Law Firm can help you recover the following damages for your case after you have had merchandise fall and hit you: medical bills paid, both past and future bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, if you lost any, and any out of pocket expenses you may have, such as money you had to spend buying a cast or bandages.
When you are alleging that a department store or large warehouse like Home Depot acted wrongly or negligently towards you, you are most likely going to be going up against a large and powerful insurance company. These kinds of companies are not just going to write you a check without incident. They may try to argue that you were at fault or that there was no way to avoid the accident. You need a lawyer to help prove your case. Most importantly in a case like this, you need a lawyer who has the power to conduct discovery and send subpoenas, especially for the surveillance video that captured the merchandise falling on you. This will help us prove liability on your case. Once we have proven liability on your case, we can then move forward to focus on your damages, or losses.
Once we accomplish this, we can really begin negotiating with the insurance company. If we can’t obtain a successful settlement on your case outside of court with the store’s insurance company, we will then get your case ready for trial and professionally and aggressively try your case in front of the jury.
Call us for a free consultation.