The vast majority of South Carolina’s citizens can say they have shopped at a Walmart at some point in time. Furthermore, many people regularly shop at Walmart. After all, Walmart reports that it has 123 retail units in South Carolina, including 84 Supercenters, 26 Neighborhood Markets, and 13 Sam’s Clubs. It’s still the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer.
Walmart entities provide a one-stop shopping experience for their customers. The products they provide vary from groceries and guns to toys and tires. Some Walmart properties, like the wholesale club Sam’s Club, offer products in bulk quantities, which can be attractive for businesses around the state. Most stores offer a variety of services, including optometrist offices, hair salons, and banks. However, within every store, hazardous conditions may increase the risk of injuries for customers and employees. These injuries can be caused by slipping or tripping and falling, being struck by a display item or being struck by another customer or shopping cart.
If you were injured at Walmart, what should you do and how should you pay for the expenses caused by your injuries? Call the Hughey Law Firm and read on for more information.
About the Hughey Law Firm
Nathan Hughey founded the Hughey Law Firm in 2007 after a five-year career defending corporations against personal injury claims. This gave him unique insights into how big corporations like Walmart try to use their money and power against the individuals they hurt through their negligence, or their pursuit of profit over customer safety.
Since its founding, the Hughey Law Firm has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for injured clients, including $425,000 for a client who slipped and broke an ankle and $350,000 for a client who fell on a slippery stairway with inadequate lighting. Though these are only examples, we feel they represent the results we try to achieve, and we hope we can do the same for you in your Walmart claim.
You may be surprised to learn that Walmart started out as a small family discount store. However, over the course of around 50 years, it has become the largest retailer in the world. The company averages a revenue of around $524 billion annually. Around 265 million customers shop at Walmart each week at 11,500 stores located in 27 countries or online at one of Walmart’s eCommerce websites.
According to the corporation, the company provides for customers and employees through liability insurance, self-insured retention, and self-insurance. The company keeps a self-funded account for claims of legal liability arising from bodily injury or property damage. This means that settlements for slip and fall accidents are paid out of the self-funded account rather than through their liability insurance policy coverage.
About Slip and Fall Cases
Slip and fall or trip and fall accidents are among the most common premises liability claims however any injury caused by a negligent landowner should be discussed with a lawyer. Under South Carolina premises liability law, owners of private business, or public property are responsible for ensuring that their property is free from hazards. Hazards include any circumstances that could potentially cause injury to visitors.
A property owner or manager has a duty to promptly fix hazardous conditions that they know about or reasonably should know about. When a property owner knows or should know about hazards that they cannot fix, they must warn visitors of the dangerous conditions. To adequately notify visitors of hazards, property owners must post legible signs in the areas where dangerous conditions exist.
South Carolina recognizes three types of visitors for which the property owner has a duty to keep the property safe.
If an injury occurs due to a dangerous feature on the property, the owner will be liable for injuries suffered by:
- Business invitees: Business invitees are customers who are doing business at a retail establishment during normal business hours. The law affords the highest duty of care for these invitees. Owners must actively check the premises for potential dangers and are responsible for any conditions they should have discovered during a reasonable scheduled inspection of the property.
- Licensees: Licensees are social guests who are present on the property because they were invited by the owner. While property owners are not required to actively look for hazardous situations, they are required to fix dangers when they become aware of them. Alternatively, if the owners cannot fix the known hazard, they must warn licensees of the dangerous situation.
- Trespassers: Trespassers are individuals who are on the property without the owner’s permission. Owners owe the lowest duty of care to trespassers. Owners must refrain from enticing a trespasser onto their property, intending for them to be injured by hazards or traps set on the property. However, there is an exception for trespassers who are children. Property owners must secure dangerous features of their property, such as swimming pools, old cars, or appliances, to avoid harm to child trespassers.
In cases involving a customer who was injured in a slip and fall accident in Walmart, the customer would be considered a business invitee. As such, the customer is owed the highest duty of care.
Common causes of slip and fall accidents in a retail store, such as Walmart, include:
- Wet floors or floors that have been freshly polished
- Food, products, or debris on the floor
- Pallets used for displays that, if not positioned properly, can cause a customer to trip
- Loose floor mats
- Damaged or uneven floors
- Potholes in the parking lot or damaged sidewalks outside of the store
Although slip and fall accidents commonly cause minor injuries, at times, the accident injuries can be quite severe.
Consider the following facts, provided by the National Floor Safety Institute:
- Falls are the leading reason for emergency department visits, with 8 million falls requiring emergency treatment each year. Slip and falls account for over 1 million emergency department visits a year.
- Five percent of people who fall will suffer a bone fracture from the accident. Among the most serious are fractured hips, which can result in ongoing health problems or even death. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death in people over the age of 65.
- Falls are the second-leading cause of spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries for people over the age of 65.
- Twenty-two percent of slip and fall cases cause injuries so serious that they require the injured person to miss more than 31 days of work.
- The total cost of injuries resulting from falls is around $13-14 million a year.
- Around 60 percent of all falls occur on the same level, while the remaining 40 percent occur from elevation.
Individuals who have been injured due to a slip and fall accident at a retail store have three years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury claim.
To prove a personal injury claim, victims must show that:
- The owner or employee of the store caused a spill or other dangerous condition to exist or should have discovered that a dangerous condition existed during their regular inspection of the property.
- The owner or employee knew or should have known about the condition but did nothing to remove the hazard.
- A reasonable person of ordinary prudence would have discovered that the condition existed and would have made prompt efforts to fix it.
Watch for Unethical Tactics
Walmart effectively acts as its own insurance provider, and is well known for avoiding payouts to injured customers. The corporation was expected to settle a wrongful death case filed by the mother of a man who fell from a Sam’s Club display swing. However, the corporation only reached this position, after it was sanctioned by the court.
Walmart was sanctioned by the court after destroying video evidence in the case and refusing to provide access to the swing that caused the death. The judge who sanctioned Walmart mentioned there were 18 other cases involving Walmart’s destruction of evidence before reaching a settlement. Walmart claimed that it had “coincidentally decommissioned” the swing within a month after the accident occurred.
A federal judge also noticed Walmart’s disturbing pattern of destroying evidence before settling cases. The Court noted that the retailer had no problem producing video evidence when it was in favor of the store. However, Walmart commonly failed to provide video in other cases, claiming that those incidents were not caught on camera. The Nevada judge even suggested that there could be an incentive for employees to “lose” videos and other evidence. Employees may be enticed to destroy evidence that could cause Walmart to lose a court case because those costs may consequently lower a store’s profits and the employee’s bonuses.
Lost evidence isn’t the only issue that claimants face when seeking compensation for their slip and fall injuries from Walmart. For example, a woman slipped on a puddle of water at her local Walmart store, suffering a knee injury that required surgery. The puddle of water was located near a self-serve Rug Doctor kiosk. An investigation determined that the water resulted from a customer spilling water while placing the apparatus in a grocery cart. The injured woman filed suit against both Walmart and Rug Doctor within two years after the accident.
Initially, the lower court said that Rug Doctor was liable for the accident, as the water came from their machine. However, the court opted to dismiss the case against Walmart, stating they weren’t liable for conditions involving the self-serve Rug Doctor kiosk. The court reasoned that Walmart merely allowed the kiosk to be displayed in their stores. The woman appealed the decision, which eventually was decided by the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court overruled the lower court’s decision holding. The Court held that Walmart should have known that carpet cleaning machines could create hazards such as water on the floor that could not be ignored.
Despite missing evidence or attempts to name other liable parties, there have been successful outcomes for victims injured by slip and fall accidents at Walmart. For example, a man was awarded $7.5 million after he fell and suffered injuries. The man lost his balance while trying to get a watermelon out of a container that was stacked on top of a pallet. While reaching for the fruit, the man tripped and his foot became lodged in a side opening in the wooden pallet. When he attempted to turn towards his cart, his foot was stuck, causing him to fall and suffer serious injuries, including a broken hip.
During the trial, jurors viewed security footage that showed people getting their feet caught in the side opening in the pallet. The jury found that the store should have reasonably known that the pallet was presenting a hazard to customers. The man was awarded $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
In one of the largest slip and fall judgments in the United States, a trucker sued Walmart after slipping and falling on a grease spill. As a consequence of her injuries, the trucker couldn’t return to work and permanently suffers from incontinence and chronic pain. Initially, of course, Walmart denied that there was a grease spill. However, a day into the trial, a city document was presented as evidence supporting the trucker’s claim. A jury awarded her $15 million. Walmart appealed the verdict and was granted a new trial on the grounds that the late discovery of evidence harmed the corporation’s case. However, the state’s Supreme Court disagreed, and ruled that the award should stand.
Walmart Slip and Fall Frequently Asked Questions FAQs
You are certainly familiar with the phrase “blaming the victim.” More often than not, victims are the target of the blame in cases involving slip and fall injuries in South Carolina. Proprietors of businesses owe a legal duty to their patrons to provide a reasonably safe area for carrying out business operations. Even though a store, such as Walmart, is not technically classified as a public place, members of the public who frequent the store may feel that it is characteristic of a public space. However, as a customer of a private business, you are entitled to certain protections under the law. At a minimum, customers can expect to enter into a safe environment.
If you were injured due to the negligence of a large company, such as Walmart, you may be entitled to seek compensation through a personal injury claim. Below we answer some frequently asked questions intended to assist injured victims in navigating the claims process.
What is a slip and fall accident?
A slip and fall accident does not only refer to the classic scenario of slipping on a wet floor. Businesses, such as Walmart, have a responsibility to provide a safe place of business. As part of this responsibility, store operators must post warnings and promptly remove hazards that may adversely impact the health and safety of their patrons. Commonly, a slip and fall accident might occur on a freshly mopped floor that hasn’t been roped off or labeled. Spilled food or other merchandise left in customers’ pathways may also result in injury.
What are the legal implications of slip and fall accidents?
Under South Carolina law, businesses or private individuals may be liable for injuries resulting from slip and fall accidents that happen on their premises. When property owners negligently fail to provide adequate notification of potentially hazardous conditions on their property, they will be responsible if someone is injured. Injured victims may seek financial compensation from responsible parties. Primarily, claims against business and property owners will be paid through their insurance policy coverage. Victims may only be entitled to compensation to the extent that they were not at fault in causing their injuries. If you have slipped on ice, a broken jar of pickles, a soapy floor, or a wet entryway during a rainstorm, you should ensure your legal rights are protected.
When can I file a personal injury claim?
In South Carolina, the statute of limitations determines the period of time during which injured individuals are eligible to file a personal injury claim. The statute of limitations provides that a personal injury claim must be filed within three years of the date of the injury. The claims process can be time consuming and complex, so the sooner you act, the better.
What kind of compensation can I expect?
Every case is unique and the amount of compensation an injured victim may be entitled to depends on a variety of factors. Be wary of a quick settlement offer from the responsible parties insurance company. While an initial settlement amount might seem like a lot, typically, the offer will not reflect the true value of your claim. Medical bills are undoubtedly expensive. Injuries that cause permanent disabilities or long term pain and suffering can significantly impact your quality of life. Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Experienced personal injury attorneys regularly fight for the rights of injured victims to seek the compensation they are entitled to.
Will my case go to court?
Not all slip and fall cases proceed to court to be litigated. More often than not, cases are settled out of court by a monetary settlement to compensate victims for losses associated with their injuries. When appropriate, a lawyer may negotiate with insurance companies on their client’s behalf to maximize their compensation. However, if settlement negotiations prove to be unsuccessful, an experienced attorney will be prepared to pursue litigation in court.
What is shared fault?
Since South Carolina determines injury through a tort system, liable parties must be identified by determining who was at fault. If a victim’s actions contributed to the accident, nonetheless, they may still be entitled to compensation. Oftentimes, a business will try to imply that a victim’s own fault contributed to the accident more than any negligence on their part. Don’t let tough tactics deter you from pursuing your claim. Instead, call us now.
Why do I need an attorney?
Personal injury laws can be complicated and difficult to navigate. An experienced personal injury lawyer can effortlessly guide you through the claims process. Insurance companies will try to entice unrepresented victims to accept an undervalued settlement offer by attracting them to quick cash. Other times, insurance companies may attempt to discredit an injured victim’s claims. An experienced attorney can ensure that victims’ rights remain protected throughout the claims process.
How much will an attorney cost?
Pursuing a slip and fall case might be different from any previous experience you may have had with the court system. As with other personal injury cases, attorneys typically do not receive substantial compensation unless the case is successful. Experienced attorneys have great incentive to aggressively advocate on behalf of victims.
When should I contact an attorney?
If you have fallen and sustained an injury, as a result of another’s negligence or carelessness, you should consider contacting an attorney as soon as possible. Even if you initially believe you have only sustained minor injuries, you may experience complications in the future. In particular, head injuries, including concussions and traumatic brain injuries, typically do not immediately exhibit symptoms. Rather, victims may not be aware of the injury for days or weeks after the accident. It is always important to seek an evaluation from a medical professional experiencing any type of accident.
Undoubtedly, the emotional aspects of recovering from an injury will be tough for victims and their families to manage. When emotional stress is coupled with medical bills, recovery, and rehabilitation, victims can easily become overwhelmed. Consulting an attorney can help to relieve some of that stress, so injured victims can fully focus on their recovery is the first step in taking a large load off your mind so that you can begin the healing process.
The majority of slip and fall cases happen because a large corporation has cut corners or hired people without the proper training to ensure the business is safe for customers and patrons. If you have been injured due to unsafe conditions, the owner and operator of the premises should be held accountable. Contact us today to learn more about how to protect your rights.
The Hughey Law Firm: Fighting for Your Right to Fair Compensation
As the above-mentioned cases indicate, it is very possible to sue Walmart and obtain a successful outcome. However, successful personal injury claims are complicated and difficult to prove. It may take a significant amount of time for victims to receive the compensation they are entitled to. Due to the complexities associated with filing a claim against a major corporation, victims should contact the experienced premises liability attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm today.
When appropriate, some of the services our attorneys may provide in this type of case include:
- Identification of all liable parties. Even if your accident occurred in the Walmart store, there may be other sources of liability. For example, other parties may be liable if the case involves a kiosk or other service provided by an affiliated company.
- Establishing the value of your case. The calculation may be based on the severity of the injuries, the expenses incurred, and the impacts that the injuries have on a victim’s quality of life.
- Quick and diligent gathering of evidence before it is lost or decommissioned. Evidence may also include depositions of key witnesses.
- Negotiation with Walmart representatives in an attempt to obtain a fair settlement.
- The timely filing of the case in court within the proper jurisdiction.
- Attending all pre-trial conferences and hearings.
- Litigation, including the preparation of opening and closing arguments, questioning of witnesses, and presentation of your case for the jury and/or judge.
- Collection of your settlement or award.
- Continued representation, if Walmart decides to appeal the case.
The experienced Walmart slip and fall attorneys at the Hughey Law Firm are ready and willing to answer your questions about the legal process. For a free consultation and case evaluation, contact us today or call (843) 881-8644.