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I fell down in the grocery store. Can I sue them?

The concept of premises liability is frequently misunderstood in its application. Some people mistakenly believe that anyone who falls down and gets hurt on someone else's property is entitled to a large settlement.

Still others fail to recognize that the unsafe conditions they allowed to occur (or never bothered to correct) on their property led to another person's injuries.

Premises liability law falls somewhere in the middle. If you are a store owner and a customer's leg buckles under him or her while he or she is shopping, that doesn't automatically mean that you or your insurance company owe him or her anything.

Negligence must be present in order to establish that a property owner is liable for injuries that occur on the premises. For instance, a customer in a grocery store aisle spilled a cold drink on the floor but told no employees who could have cleaned it up. Within minutes, another customer slips down in the spill and injures his or her back. The store may bear some liability for not immediately realizing there was a hazard and correcting it before an injury occurred.

But the store owner's liability for a customer slipping in some spilled Mountain Dew would be less than it would be if a chronically-leaking cooler created the puddle that caused the patron to get hurt. In the first hypothetical situation, the spill was caused by another customer and had never been brought to an employee's or manager's attention. It's likely the spilled drink would have been discovered and mopped up within a reasonable length of time.

But in the second example, the store owner was remiss in the duty to maintain the property free of hazards. The cooler had been broken and leaking for some time, allowing condensation to pool on the floor. It should have been removed from service and promptly repaired.

If you were seriously injured on someone else's property due to negligence, you may have legal standing to file a claim for damages.

Source: FindLaw, "Premises Liability FAQ," accessed Jan. 26, 2018

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