Each year, millions of people visit the ER after a slip and fall.  These falls result in a variety of injuries, from cuts, bruises and broken bones to brain, spinal cord injuries, and even death.  In fact, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falling is the number one cause of injury and death among people 65 or older.  Younger people are also at risk of injuries from falls.  According to the National Safety Council, falls are second only to car accidents as the leading cause of unintentional death.  In 2009, falls resulted in more than 25,000 fatalities.

Falls frequently happen in stores and are often a direct result of the store owner’s negligence and failure to keep an area safe.  According to a report published byPepperdineUniversity, Wal-Mart reports approximately 1,000 customer slip and fall injuries per day.  There are many causes of falls in stores including wet or improperly cleaned floors, merchandise on the floor, poor lighting, holes or unexpected changes in the surface, or being hit by improperly shelved items.  There are four basic categories of slips and falls:

  • Slip and fall: occurs when the floor is slippery
  • Trip and fall: occurs when there is a foreign object in the walker's way
  • Stump and fall: occurs when the floor is uneven or defective
  • Step and fall: occurs when there is a hole or break in the walking surface

Often, because of embarrassment, an individual’s first instinct after a fall is to dismiss the incident and leave quickly.  It is crucial, however, to take the following steps to maintain your safety and protect yourself.

What to Do if You Fall in a Store

First, seek medical help if you need it.  Ask someone in the store to call an ambulance if you feel you cannot stand.  When you receive treatment, keep your bills and ensure that your health care professionals maintain detailed records of your injuries and treatments.

Immediately notify the store owner or manager that you fell and were injured.  Make sure the manager or owner of the store fills out an accident report.  If you are too injured in the moment, return later to ensure a report was written.  Obtain and keep a copy of this report.

Look around to determine what caused your fall.  Take photos of the exact location of your fall and keep notes of any contributing conditions.  Note the time of your fall, and collect the names and contact information of any witnesses.

If you are contacted by the store owner’s insurance company, remember you are not required to share any information.  They may offer to pay your immediate medical bills as long as you sign a promise not to file a claim against the store or business.  However, this offer may not compensate you for any future medical treatments or any ongoing consequences of the injuries.