Falling Merchandise

If you are injured by falling merchandise while shopping in a Florida store, you might be able to collect compensation for those injuries. You may not necessarily even have to file a lawsuit, though if that becomes necessary, you want to make sure you have an experienced Fort Lauderdale premises liability attorney at your side.

When a business welcomes customers, Florida law requires the store to protect them from unreasonable risk of harm. A breach of that duty would fall under the umbrella of premises liability law.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale lawyers know one common source of shopping injury is falling merchandise. This danger is especially pronounced at those “big box” and “superstore” warehouses.

Why Do Falling Merchandise Accidents Happen?

Retail businesses in general benefit when they move as much stock as fast possible. That means they need to effectively display their inventory. But of course, commercial leases are pricey, so store owners stack up rather than out. But this too often results in perilously-piled merchandise, which not only increases the risk of the items falling, but also reduces the chances that a customer is going to notice the danger until it’s too late.

Unfortunately, stores like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club, BJs and are bound by little federal regulation on this issue. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) usually only investigates if an employee is injured or killed. Representatives of these megastores say falling merchandise claims only represent a small percentage of all store injuries, but our Fort Lauderdale attorneys know the number is significant.

In fact, injuries can kill or be life-altering when we’re talking about items dropping more than 12 feet from enormous shelves. Despite this, stores are not handing customers hard hats or warning them to watch for falling merchandise. They don’t want to give the impression that their property is unsafe, but the truth is: It’s not. We know that thousands of injuries and some deaths have occurred over the last 20 years as a result of falling merchandise at U.S. stores.

There is no formal tally of these statistics, but we do know that the case of Scharrel v. Wal Mart Stores Inc. resulted in the revelation that over a six-year time frame, the store counted 26,000 customer injury claims and 7,000 worker injury claims attributed to falling merchandise. Meanwhile, an administrator for Home Depot testified during another trial that falling merchandise at its stores results in more than 180 reported injuries every week. It’s not a stretch to believe that other large stores are experiencing the same type of customer injury volume.

Many of these incidents involved “sky shelves,” which are shelves stacked nearly to the ceiling with no devices or netting to restrain them or keep them secure.

The bottom line is: Shopping should not be dangerous. When unsuspecting customers suffer serious injury on what should have been a typical shopping trip, it’s time to look closely at whether the store should be held liable to compensate for those injuries.

Will a Store Ever Admit Negligence?

Possibly. Negligence occurs when a store breaches a duty of care owed to customers resulting in injury. A defendant store may concede it was negligent – but be wary of any offer to get you to settle right away, especially if your injuries were serious. That’s because in many cases, the bigger issue is the causation of your injuries and the extent of your damages.

In other words, the store is going to argue that your injuries weren’t caused by the falling merchandise, but perhaps by some other incident. It may also argue that you were not injured by the falling merchandise to the extent that you claim. Both of these arguments aim to slash whatever compensation you might receive.

Some examples of damages in a falling merchandise case include:

  • Lost income
  • Future loss of income
  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Replacement value of lost personal property
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability
  • Mental anguish
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Loss of capacity for life enjoyment
  • Loss of consortium
  • Diagnostic testing of injuries
  • Funeral expenses
  • Wrongful death
  • Punitive damages (only in rare cases)

Calculation of these damages is often a complex and involved process. In many situations, expert testimony from professionals like physicians and biomedical engineers will help in building a case to assert higher damages. This is why you don’t want to agree to settle with a store before you have had the chance to talk to a Fort Lauderdale lawyer.

Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (877) 277-3780 or locally in Broward at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.

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