Most of us make a trip to one store or another at least once a week if not more often. If we are visiting a gas station, department store, makeup counter, or other retail establishment and get injured there, who is responsible? Many things can make a person fall unexpectedly, including wet floors, slippery surfaces, insufficient lighting, and dangerous entryways. While many injuries in a supermarket or other store are accidental, sometimes a property owner is at fault for creating a hazard or failing to remedy it. So, how does someone injured at a business know if a store owner is liable for a customer injury? While many people may think being injured on someone else’s property means the property owner is automatically liable for their injuries, this is far from the truth. Proving property owner liability is legally challenging.
Negligence on the part of a store owner means they are responsible for the dangerous situation that led to your injuries. No matter if management overlooked a hazard that created a dangerous situation or recklessly created the danger, if you suffered injuries in a store and the store or property owner’s negligence played a role in causing you to get hurt, they may be legally responsible for the resulting damages. Dealing with a catastrophic injury after a slip and fall isn’t easy. If a store’s lack of reasonable care caused your injury, you deserve compensation for such negligence.
Texas Premises Liability Law
Texas law classifies those who visit another’s property into three categories: trespasser, licensee, and invitee; and, the classification of the visitors determines which standard of care the property owner owes them:
- Trespasser: A trespasser is someone who enters or remains on another’s property with or without the property owner’s knowledge or consent. If the property owner does not know the trespasser is entering their property, there is no duty of care owed to the trespasser. If the owner knows, then they must warn of all unnatural hazards. A property owner owes a trespasser only the slightest duty to keep them safe.
- Licensee: A licensee is a person who has the owner’s permission to be on the premises, but is there for the licensee’s own purposes. A licensee is owed a higher duty of care than a trespasser but a lesser duty of care than is owed to an invitee. A licensee is often described as a social guest, as they are invited to enter and/or remain on another’s property for reasons other than business. The invitation can either be expressed or implied.
- Invitee: An invitee is a customer that visits a store at the property owner’s invitation. An invitee enters a property with the property owner’s (or controller’s) knowledge and for their mutual benefit. The owner not only wants the customer to come into their place of business but also needs them to spend money there to help the company stay operational. The law imposes the highest duty of care on a store owner concerning the safety of an invitee. Most people who are hurt in a store are invitees. The property owner owes the invitee a duty to protect the invitee from reasonable risks that he or she is aware of and foreseeable risks that could be identified after a reasonable inspection.
In addition, Texas law maintains strict deadlines within which injury victims must file a lawsuit called statutes of limitation. The statute of limitations for a premises liability case in Texas is two years from the date of the incident – meaning, you only have that long to take action against the liable party for financial compensation.
Proving Negligence in a Premises Liability Claim
If you are injured while patronizing a store, your personal injury lawyer will need to prove the following elements of negligence existed:
- Duty: The property owner owed you a reasonable duty of care to prevent your injury on their premises
- Breach: The store owner breached the duty of care they owed you
- Cause in fact: If it wasn’t for the store owner’s actions or failures to act, you would not have suffered an injury
- Proximate cause: The store owner’s actions and nothing else caused your injury
- Damages: You incurred damages as a result of the premises liability accident
Premises liability issues can be complex. The available evidence should show the store owner knew about the hazardous conditions or that a reasonable person would have known about them.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents in Retail Stores
Like all businesses open to the public, stores are legally obligated to maintain reasonably safe property conditions for the protection of visitors and customers. While any number of scenarios can cause a customer injury in a store, some of the more common causes include:
- Spilled liquids, food, or other such items
- A wet or slippery floor after mopping or cleaning
- Uneven surfaces
- Slippery or broken floor tiles
- Dangerous stairs
- Poor lighting
- Inadequate security
- Weather conditions
- Poor visibility
- Lack of handrails or broken handrails or stairs
- Lack of slip-resistant or skid-resistant material
- Merchandise left in the aisles
- Failure to post warning of temporary hazards
Houston Customer Injury Lawyers
Property owners’ insurance companies will always try to avoid paying for injuries that occur on the properties they insure. You need experienced legal counsel on your side to ensure you hold the responsible parties accountable for the dangerous conditions they created and the damages that resulted. Your premises liability damages for a customer injury can include medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain, and suffering, and more.