If you were ever injured in a store before, you have likely considered filing a lawsuit to hold the store owner responsible for your injuries. The following article will provide some information regarding whether store owners in Illinois are liable for customer injuries that occur in their stores.
What Does Illinois Law Say About Store Owner Liability?
Under common law, the duties that store owners and other property owners owe to entrants depended on the legal status of the person who entered the premises. There are three categories of entrants — invitees, licensees, and trespassers.
- Invitees: Invitees are entrants who have either been expressly or implicitly invited to the property for business reasons. An example of an invitee is a customer who enters the premises of an electronic store to make a purchase. Under common law, since a store owner has a duty of care to invitees, they have to reasonably inspect the premises to ensure it is a safe environment for invitees.
- Licensees: Licensees are entrants who have permission to enter the property, but who do so to further their own interest. An example of a licensee is a social guest. Under common law, a storeowner has a duty to ensure that he does not knowingly or intentionally expose licensees to an unreasonable risk of harm.
- Trespassers: Trespassers are entrants who enter the property without permission from the owner. Under common law, a storeowner only has a duty to refrain from willingly or carelessly causing harm to trespassers.
However, in 1984, the Illinois Premises Liability Act (740 ILCS § 130) abolished the distinction between the duties owed to invitees and licensees but retained the common law duty regarding trespassers. Furthermore, this act states that in regard to invitees and licensees, a store owner’s only duty is to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances regarding the state of the premises or acts done or omitted on them.
It should also be noted however, that the 1990 Illinois Supreme Court case of Ward v. KMart ruled that a store owner can be held liable for injuries that occur to customers if the owner:
- Knows, or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover, the dangerous condition, and should realize that it involves an unreasonable risk of harm to customers
- Should expect that customers will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it
- Fails to exercise reasonable care to protect customers against the danger
What Types of Accidents Occur on Store Premises?
There are various types of accidents that can occur on store premises. Some of these include:
- Slip and fall accidents. Slip and fall injuries are extremely common for places like retail stores and grocery stores. Some major causes of these types of store injuries include unsafe conditions like wet or oily floors, unsecured rugs or carpets, accumulation of ice and snow, and loose or broken floors, sidewalks, steps, or stairs.
- Elevator or escalator accidents. Elevators and escalators can pose danger for customers if not maintained. If a customer is injured while using one of these, the store owner can be held liable for those injuries. For example, in 2019 we covered an escalator accident in Macy’s in 2018.
- Fire accidents. If a fire breaks out in a store and a customer is injured as a result or suffers property damage, the store owner can be held liable.
- Incidents involving toxic fumes or chemicals. Some stores possess toxic chemicals or materials. If a customer is injured by these chemicals or fumes, a storeowner can be held liable.
- Incidents resulting from defective conditions of the premises. If a store owner is aware of defective conditions on the premises of which a customer is likely to be unaware, and does nothing about it, he can be held liable.
- Incidents resulting from inadequate security of the premises. If a store owner fails to take necessary precautionary measures to ensure customer safety on the premises, including the store parking lot, and a customer is injured as a result, the store owner could be held liable.
What Types of Injuries Could Result from these Accidents?
The aforementioned types of accidents could result in various types of very serious injuries that require medical treatment, including:
- Broken bones
- Cuts and bruises
- Sprained muscles
- Head injuries (including contusions and concussions)
- Arm, leg, or chest injuries
- Respiratory issues and other related health issues (in cases of airborne hazards, such as mold or toxic chemicals)
- Exacerbated pre-existing conditions (for example, a person with a bad back slipping and falling in a store)
How Do I Prove Store Owner Liability?
In order to prove that a store owner is liable in a premises liability claim, you will need to show proof of the following elements:
- A dangerous condition existed on the premises at the time of the accident. This could be evidence of a wet floor, a loose floorboard, or other defective condition in the store. If you are able to, you should take pictures immediately after the accident and record witness statements. If you are unable to do so, a thorough investigation should uncover the dangerous condition that caused your injury.
- The store owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. This element can be proven by showing some evidence that the store owner had reason to know of the dangerous condition. For example, if the store owner noticed a large spill on the floor, did nothing about it, and subsequently a customer slipped in the spill and fell, there is enough evidence to show that the store owner knew of the dangerous condition.
- The store owner failed to take reasonable care to protect customers from the dangerous condition. Using the previous example, the store owner’s failure to warn customers of the spill (i.e. by putting up a “wet floor” sign) or remedy the spill (i.e. by cleaning it up) makes him liable for the customer’s resulting injuries.
- As a result of this failure, the customer was injured. If a store owner fails to take reasonable care to protect customers from a dangerous condition that he was aware of, or reasonably should have been aware of, and a customer is injured as a result, this element is satisfied.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
If you were injured while in a store and want to file a personal injury claim, you should consider hiring a personal injury attorney, especially if the accident resulted in needing medical attention. An attorney can help you in some of the following ways:
An attorney can help you build a stronger personal injury case.
Personal injury lawsuits based on premises liability require that you prove that a store owner is responsible, at least in part, for your injuries. However, it can sometimes be difficult to prove with certainty exactly what was the cause of your injuries. This is when it would be helpful to hire a personal injury attorney, who can gather evidence to help strengthen your case. This may include interviewing witnesses, obtaining medical reports, or hiring experts to examine evidence.
An attorney can help you dispute a denial from the storeowner’s insurance company.
Sometimes, the business owner’s insurance might deny a personal injury claim. There are various reasons why an insurance company may deny a claim, but the most common reason is that the company does not believe (either based on the evidence presented or the claims of the store owner) that the store owner is liable for the injuries. A personal injury attorney can dispute the denial and ensure that a mutually satisfactory agreement is reached.
An attorney can help move along the processing of your claim.
Insurance companies can often be slow in processing personal injury claims. Even if your claim is not denied outright, these companies could delay the processing of your claim by failing to respond to your inquiries or failing to send payment if a settlement has been reached. An attorney can contact the insurance company to request expeditious processing of your claim.
An attorney can help you meet important deadlines.
Timing is crucial in personal injury cases. There are various statutory deadlines and court filing deadlines that must be adhered to in order to ensure the timely processing of your claim. A personal injury attorney will keep you updated of all relevant deadlines and general updates regarding the processing of your claim.
An attorney can help you obtain additional damages.
Attorneys can help you obtain all the damages that you are entitled to in court. For example, juries typically award pain and suffering damages in personal injury cases. As such, if you settle your claim outside of court, the award amount you receive may not include these types of additional damages. An attorney will explain all damages that you are entitled to and will help you receive compensation for these damages in court.
An attorney can help you gain a better perspective of your case.
When you get injured and you believe someone else is the cause of that injury, it can be difficult to remain unbiased. Even if you did have to pay medical bills, you may only see the case from your perspective and neglect to see possible challenges that the store owner may raise if the case goes to trial. Though attorneys ultimately want to win their cases and secure financial compensation for your injuries, they also must ensure that they are unbiased and can anticipate potentially harmful claims that the other party might make.
For example, if you fell in a store because the floor was wet but you were on your phone and didn’t notice the “wet floor” sign, you could be deemed contributorily negligent in causing your injuries. An attorney can give legal advice that will help you see the case from the other side so that you can prepare for any challenges that the store owner may make regarding either the cause or extent of your injuries.
Were You Recently Injured While Shopping? Contact an Illinois Attorney
If you were recently injured while shopping and need to understand what the next steps you should take are, the Palermo Law Group can help. We can help you build a strong personal injury case and ensure that you receive compensation for your injuries. Please call our law firm at (630)-684-2332 or use our online form to schedule a free consultation with Mario Palermo, a nationally recognized personal injury lawyer.