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WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE INJURED AT A CONVENIENCE STORE?

Convenience stores have become a fixture in American life. They are virtually everywhere. There are more than 150,000 convenience stores in the United States, with almost 10,000 of those located in Florida.

Many of these convenience stores have more than just groceries: gas pumps, hot and cold prepared foods, and alcoholic beverages are commonplace at mini marts. The easy in-and-out nature of convenience stores in Florida make them very popular.  

But what happens when someone gets hurt at a convenience store? We will discuss about what to do if you are injured in a store

Let’s look at the most common ways customers are injured at convenience stores and then identify what to do if you are injured in a store.

  • SLIPS and FALLS:  By far the most common injury at convenience stores is from a slip and fall. These small supermarkets are full of foods and grocery items that can cause slips. They sell produce, prepared food, often with self-serve packaging, and once something is dropped or dripped, it can become a slip hazard.  

Combined with the very low employee-to-customer ratio at a convenience store, there is often a long period of time between inspections of the aisles and someone cleaning it up. One of the profitable aspects of convenience stores is that is it often staffed by only one or two clerks. 

At least one clerk is behind the register at all times, so there may be no employee performing regular inspections of the walking surfaces inside and outside the store. This is problematic, since fall risks can occur at any time.  

The risks of slipping and falling can be increased by oil or gas, which may have spilled or dripped at or near the pumps, or been tracked into the store by unsuspecting customers. 

The walkways may not be pressure cleaned regularly. When there is oil and grease on the ground, as is typical of gas pump areas (and even parking lots at convenience stores), it can be a slip hazard. But that hazard is made much more dangerous with rain, which creates a very slippery surface when it comes down on top of old oil or gas spills.

In Florida the person who is injured in a slip and fall from a transitory substance (something that should not be on the ground but is for a certain period of time) must prove that the substance was there long enough that the owner should have known about is presence. 

This can be difficult to prove, so preserving evidence and knowing what someone slipped on is critical. If the substance was put there by the business themselves, the victim may not need to prove that it was in place for a particular amount of time since it was the business that created the hazard. 

But if another customer drops a piece of food, or knocks something from the shelves, and it is not picked up, the falling customer needs to have evidence that it was on ground for a sufficient period of time.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE INJURED AT A CONVENIENCE STORE?

  • BURNS: Another risk at convenience stores which have gas pumps is the risk of burns. Bad pumps or poorly maintained nozzles can cause a leak of gas which may be ignited. Customers using unapproved containers can be the source of fires, as can “drive-aways” where someone forgets to put the pump hose back before driving off. These are all hazards that the convenience store must take reasonable steps to guard against.  Burns from these events can be catastrophic.
  • ASSAULTS and VIOLENT CRIMES: One of the most frequent causes of serious injuries at convenience store sis from violent crime. The fact that convenience stores are open late at night and are not usually staffed with more than one clerk, these businesses are magnets for violent crime. With many convenience stores putting their clerks inside bullet-resistant cages (usually clear Lexan or a similar hard plastic or glass), other customers have become targeted.  The clerk is usually prohibited from leaving their booth, which leaves customers helpless victims. Robberies, sexual assaults and other crimes are common.

These cases usually involve a failure to have reasonable security or lighting. Often the customer is assaulted outside the store where there is less lighting and there are more places to hide. 

Because of their nature, convenience stores attract customers that may be drunk or under the influence of drugs, which can then escalate into a violent confrontation. Plus drunk and impaired customers tend to be disorderly and spill merchandise, thereby increasing the risk of a slip and fall injury too.

Sometimes intoxicated customers get boisterous and violent on the property or become drunk from the alcohol they purchased. The failure to provide reasonable security is directly related to these violent crime injuries.

Avoid getting gas at night, especially at pumps that are isolated or where there are no other people getting gas or little traffic. Many motorists are subjected to violent criminal assaults and car jackings while gassing up at mini marts. 

Under no circumstances should you ever resist someone who wants to take your car. Property can be replaced; your life and health cannot.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE INJURED AT A CONVENIENCE STORE?

Convenience stores owe a responsibility to provide a safe place free of known hazards. They are charged with making reasonable efforts to seek out dangers such as slip and fall and violent crime risks. If they fail to do that, or fail to take reasonable action to prevent them, they may be liable for the injuries that are caused. 

That’s true even where the injury is the result of a violent crime caused by another.

If you are hurt at a convenience store, you should do the following things as soon as you can:

  1. Get medical attention. If you are hurt, you need to receive medical care. Do not wait and hope that it will get better. Plus, if you are hurt and you waited, the defense will say that it must not have been a serious injury.
  2. Take photos and video of the scene. You want to document the way the location appeared and what caused your injuries.
  3. Get the names and contact information of all witnesses. You would be surprised how hard it is to locate people who witnessed something.  It’s critical to get their statements early because memories fade and witnesses disappear.
  4. Identify whether there are any security cameras that might have recorded the event. Most businesses today, especially convenience stores, have a security camera system.  It is critical to photograph the cameras and demand that the business preserve the video before it is destroyed, recorded over or “disappears.”
  5. Identify the employees at the business.  Get their names and descriptions.
  6. If you slipped on something, identify what caused the slip, what the substance was, and determine how long it was there (if you can).
  7. Video or photograph any clean-up that is done after your fall.  This will help identify who was there, what they did, and assist in proving that there was something that required a clean-up.
  8. Make a report with the manager.  It’s important to document that there was an incident and injury.  But do not give a signed or recorded statement until you speak with an attorney.
  9. Document your losses, including medical expenses, lost work and changes in your lifestyle from the injury.
  10. Contact a skilled personal injury attorney.  You will need that expertise to develop and pursue your case.  This is not for amateurs.

Convenience stores may be commonplace but they are far from the safest places for customers.  If you have been injured at a convenience store, mini mart or gas station, you should contact a skilled and experienced personal injury trial lawyer who has a track record in handling these cases. 

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