Shopping should be an enjoyable and stress-free experience. However, accidents can happen even in the most familiar surroundings, like your go-to retail stores. Whether you've slipped on a wet floor at Walmart or tripped over uneven flooring at Home Depot, it's crucial to know your rights as a customer in New Jersey. At The Epstein Law Firm, P.A., we are committed to educating our community about these rights and guiding victims through premises liability claims. Let’s delve into how you can navigate these claims against major retail stores in the Garden State.

Understanding Premises Liability

At its core, premises liability refers to a property owner's duty to ensure their premises are safe for visitors. In New Jersey, retail stores like Stop and Shop, ShopRite, Target, and Lowes are expected to keep their premises reasonably safe and free from hazardous conditions that could cause harm to customers.

Common Accidents in Retail Stores

  • Slips, Trips, and Falls: Easily the most common, these can be caused by wet floors, torn carpeting, poor lighting, or cluttered aisles.
  • Falling Objects: Items might fall from shelves, or displays might be improperly secured.
  • Parking Lot Accidents: Uneven surfaces, potholes, or inadequate lighting can lead to injuries.
  • Malfunctioning Equipment: This includes elevators, escalators, or automatic doors.

Steps to Take After an Accident

1. Seek Medical Attention: Even if the injury seems minor, get it checked. Some injuries may not manifest immediately.

2. Report the Incident: Notify store management and get a written report of the accident.

3. Document Everything: Take photos of the accident scene, your injuries, and any potential causes of the accident. Collect names and contact information of any witnesses.

4. Do Not Sign: Avoid signing any documents or making recorded statements without understanding the implications fully.

5. Contact an Attorney: Before speaking with insurance companies, it's wise to consult with a legal expert familiar with New Jersey's premises liability laws.

Your Rights in New Jersey

New Jersey operates under a comparative negligence rule in personal injury cases. This means that even if you were partially at fault for your injuries, you could still claim compensation. However, your compensation might be reduced by your percentage of fault. For example, if you're deemed 10% at fault, your total compensation will be reduced by 10%.

Building a Strong Case

Retail stores have a legal obligation to ensure a safe environment for their customers. When they neglect this duty and personal injuries occur as a result, victims have the right to pursue compensation through a premises liability claim. Building a strong case is vital for a favorable outcome. Let’s delve into the steps and strategies that can reinforce your claim against retail stores in New Jersey.

Immediate Documentation is Key

  • Report the Incident: Before leaving the store, report the accident to the store management. Ensure you obtain a written report or incident form.
  • Photographic Evidence: Using your phone, take clear pictures of the scene, focusing on the hazard that caused your injury. If it's a spill, photograph the surrounding area to show a lack of warning signs.
  • Gather Witness Information: If there were any witnesses, obtain their names and contact information. Their account can play a pivotal role in verifying your version of events.

Seek Medical Treatment

Even if injuries seem minor initially, seek medical attention immediately. Medical records provide crucial evidence of the injuries sustained from the accident. They link the accident to the injuries, which is vital for compensation claims.

Understand and Establish Negligence

For a successful claim, you must prove the retail store's negligence. This involves:

  • Demonstrating the store had a duty to ensure safe premises.
  • Showing that they breached this duty.
  • Proving this breach directly caused your injury.
  • Establishing that the injury resulted in damages, such as medical expenses or lost wages.

Evidence that can establish negligence includes previous complaints about the hazard, the duration the hazard existed without rectification, and the store's regular procedures for checking and eliminating dangers.

Preserve Evidence

Store your clothing and footwear from the day of the accident without cleaning them. They might provide vital evidence, especially in slip and fall cases.

Understand Comparative Negligence

New Jersey follows the rule of comparative negligence. If you're found partially at fault for the accident, your compensation could be reduced proportionately. For instance, if you're 20% at fault and your damages amount to $100,000, you might only receive $80,000.

Avoid Providing Statements Without Legal Counsel

Retail store representatives or their insurance adjusters might contact you for a statement. It's imperative not to discuss the incident or your injuries without consulting your attorney. What you say can be used against you to devalue or deny your claim.

Engage a Skilled Attorney

Having a seasoned attorney with experience in New Jersey premises liability claims can be a game-changer. They can:

  • Guide you through the complexities of the legal process.
  • Negotiate with the store's representatives or insurance adjusters.
  • Help gather evidence, such as surveillance footage.
  • Represent you in court, if necessary.

Stay Off Social Media

Anything you post on social platforms can be used against you. For instance, if you claim a severe injury but post photos of physical activity soon after, it might weaken your claim.

Challenges with Big Retail Chains

Large retail chains often have a team of attorneys ready to defend against liability claims. They might:

  • Argue that the dangerous condition was "open and obvious."
  • Suggest the customer was distracted or not paying attention.
  • Claim they didn't have adequate time to discover or rectify the hazard.

Thus, having an experienced attorney by your side can level the playing field.

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer at The Epstein Law Firm, P.A  for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today

Shopping should not jeopardize your safety. Retail giants in New Jersey have a responsibility to their customers, and when they fall short, they should be held accountable. Knowing your rights and the steps to take post-accident can significantly impact the outcome of your claim.

At The Epstein Law Firm, P.A., we have a rich history of standing up against large corporations on behalf of everyday individuals. If you've been injured at a retail store, we're here to guide, support, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Your rights matter, and we're here to champion them. Contact us today to discuss your case.