The holiday season is a wonderful time to break the routine of our daily lives and enjoy time with our families. With Thanksgiving behind us, we are now looking forward to Christmas and the New Year. Tradition has it that Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. It is known as the busiest shopping day of the year and brings in around $50 billion of sales for stores.
Black Friday dangers
Retailers offer huge discounts and people get very excited about picking up a bargain. Sometimes this excitement can turn into a frenzy, and we have all seen the crowds pushed up against the doors ready to charge into the store and snap up the best bargain before someone else gets it. Sometimes these situations can become very dangerous with stampedes, fighting and falling objects that can result in injuries such as broken bones and concussions. I’m sure you remember the incident in 2008 in a Long Island Walmart where the crowd pushed against the doors, causing them to cave in, and a security guard was trampled to death. A lawsuit against Walmart resulted in them paying a $2 million settlement to avoid criminal charges and a $7000 fine.
In an attempt to avoid future injuries, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has released an annual set of guidelines for retailers regarding crowd management, which include:
- No blocking or locking exit doors
- Trained security personnel should be hired when large crowds are expected
- Barricades or lines for pedestrians need to be set up, starting at some distance from the store’s entrance
- The store should implement crowd control measures in advance of customers arriving
- No additional customers are to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level
- Emergency procedures must be in place
As the weather turns colder this time of year, we are more likely to see hazardous conditions created by wet and slippery floors, due to the rain, mud, snow and ice. Regardless of the weather, Black Friday is known for huge numbers of people rushing into stores and malls, increasing the risk of accidents.
- People can slip and fall at entrances
- There can be stampedes as stores open their doors to pushing crowds
- People can trip and fall over items dropped by other shoppers or that have fallen from the shelves
- Some shoppers may be willing to start fights over the last available items
Instead of coming home with a bargain, some people come home with serious injuries and even end up in the hospital.
Whose fault is it?
A retailer must take preventative measures preparing for Black Friday, as is laid out in the OSHA guidelines, otherwise they may be liable for injuries that have occurred in their store. If they did not take the specific safety precautions such as ensuring safe flooring, especially in the case of our often severe New York weather, it may be considered a premises liability case if you are hurt. Just laying out commercial mats at store entrances can prevent accidents happening as a result of wet floor conditions. Fights that break out between customers, which could have been considered foreseeable, could be considered the store’s responsibility too.
Premise liability is also based on who that injured person was:
- A trespasser, someone who is on the property uninvited
- A licensee, a person who is on the property with the permission of the owner
- An invitee, someone who is on the property for the purpose of providing a benefit to the business owner, therefore a customer
When businesses invite you to come and spend money at their store, they are obligated to ensure that their premises are safe. They may not be able to prevent you getting into a fight with another customer, but they should have emergency options available it occur.
Many stores will offer you the same bargains online as in the store, so you can purchase your goods in the safety of your own home. If however, you do want to go to the store directly, here are some tips to think about:
- Avoid the front of the crowd to avoid getting dragged in if there is a rush
- Identify where the emergency exits are
- Wear sturdy shoes that will reduce the risk of slipping
- Stay calm and do not panic
- Avoid fellow shoppers who seem to have lost control
What should I do if I have been injured?
If you are involved in an accident, report it immediately to store personnel and seek immediate medical attention. If you are able, get the names of witnesses and take photographs of the hazard that may have caused your accident (or get someone do this for you if you are unable to do so yourself).
Only an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to evaluate whether you may be entitled to compensation for an injury.
If you were injured at a store or another location, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to ensure your rights are protected. Attorney Greg Bagen has been helping members of the Putnam County community for 40 years. Contact him today for your free consultation.