The majority of the slip and fall inquiries we get involve Publix and Kroger supermarkets, simply because the dominate the market. In the still capture above from surveillance video in a grocery store, you will note one of our clients in mid-fall with her legs going out from under her. This fall resulted in a shattered elbow with surgery to install pins to repair the fracture. This type of fall is usually caused by spilled liquid or leaking equipment. This is a good example of the serious injuries that lead to people calling our firm. When victims call they are anxious about their rights under the law and have a variety of questions so this article will attempt to answer some of the most frequent question. We provide this information because with serious injuries, very few Georgia slip and fall cases get settled without filing a lawsuit.
I fell and broke my arm in the store and Specialty Risk Services is now asking for a recorded statement: SRS is a private risk assessment firm used by some major retailers. Sedgewick Claims is another common one. These companies are tasked with investigating slip and fall claims in Georgia to determine which claims are legitimate. One of the first things they will want to do is take a recorded statement. In a perfect world where everyone only seeks the truth, I would say go ahead and give a statement. We don’t live in that world, unfortunately. My advice is to politely decline and run your situation by a lawyer first.
Do I need a lawyer to handle my slip and fall case against Kroger or Publix? The answer depends on how serious the injury is. We get a number of calls from people with superficial cuts and sprained ankles. For injuries of that minor magnitude, you do not need a lawyer and should just deal with the store directly. Put simply, minor injuries should not turn into lawsuits. We all have to live here and if people haul off and file lawsuits over every minor incident we are rapidly going to degrade the justice system.
What Happens After You File a Slip and Fall Lawsuit Against Kroger or Publix in Georgia? It depends on the facts. Let us use a hypothetical case example. For serious injuries like a fracture or knee or shoulder injury involving surgery, it is unlikely that the case can be settled pre-suit. Over the last four years, our firm has yet to settle a case against Kroger without litigation. The store knows it may have a number of solid defenses to paying.
Once the lawsuit is filed, you will get an answer back showing the legal defenses in about 45 days. We always request the in store surveillance tapes and the cleaning logs to compute the last time a store employee was in the area. Most Publix and Kroger store have excellent camera systems and will actually record the fall occurring. This is great because it screens out the liars that may try to scam the systems and at the same time shows the swiftness and violence of a genuine slip and fall. The store will have its lawyers depose you to explore how serious the injury is and, if appropriate they will depose your treating doctors. When all this research is completed the store’s lawyers will evaluate whether they can get your case thrown of court on a motion for summary judgment. Realize, that even with solid video evidence of the fall, the store will likely try to get summary judgment using a tried and true defense:
Defense #1: We have a floor inspection log and our employee had just checked the area so whatever you fell on, had only been there for 20 minutes and we can get the case thrown out. Fighting this defense takes careful inspection of the logs and depositions of the employees to expose the reality that the inspections rarely take place as advertised.
Defense #2 You slipped because of rain water in the store. This is a tough defense because Georgia courts will often throw a case out unless the rainwater accumulated into a significant puddle inside of the store. Common sense tells you that your shoes will be wet when its raining out so the risk of slipping is higher. The law follows common sense in that respect.
Defense #3 Prior Traverse Rule: If you fell because of a static or permanent defect (as opposed to temporary spill) then the store may try to argue that you had passed over the uneven pavement or ramp previously without a problem and therefore you knew about the condition that you claim caused you to fall. Georgia appellate courts have whittled this rule down to the point that it is not a very strong defense anymore but you still must prepare for it.
Defense #4: I cannot tell you what I fell on… This one is still deadly in Georgia. If you don’t know why you fell, you don’t have a case, period. If you don’t know ask witnesses at the scene what you fell on.
If the Court denies summary judgment and the case is proceeding towards a date with a jury for trial, then you may have an opportunity to settle the case short of trial. On the other hand, the store may still be offering low numbers and in that case, around a year and a half after you file the suit, you will get your day in court.