Hanukkah starts on December 10, and Christmas follows two weeks later. With so little time before the holidays end, shoppers who may have ordered presents online could be more likely to enter brick-and-mortar stores instead for last minute items. All the hustle and bustle is good for local businesses, but it can create some dangers for visitors.
Whether you are shopping, grabbing a bite to eat, or simply out for the day, if you get hurt on someone else’s property, you can make a claim if the injuries were the result of negligence by the property owner or manager. A premises liability claim allows you to sue for damages such as medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and property damage.
During the holiday season, the most common types of premises liability claims involve:
- Falling objects. Stores tend to stack their shelves a little higher during the holidays, so that customers aren’t waiting around for someone to check the stock room. These extra items can easily fall if they are not placed securely on shelves. There is also a risk of falling lights or decorations.
- Slips, trips, and falls. Arizona may not get a lot of snow and ice, but it does rain in December. A wet walkway or floor can be a hazard to visitors who are hurrying around for last minute gifts or goods. Entranceways are particularly dangerous, but you can slip on any wet surface, including newly cleaned floors or aisles that need to be cleaned up. You can trip over broken paths or ripped carpet, or on stairs or escalators.
- Dangerous parking lots. Poor lighting can lead to trips and falls, and it can also lead to an increase risk of parking lot crashes between vehicles. A poorly lit or unsafe parking lot can also lead to an increase in thefts and violent crimes, such as assault.
- Animal attacks. It’s not just shopping centers that pose risks; any public place or private home can pose a danger when there is an animal involved. You just don’t know what might cause the neighbor’s dog to be frightened, and a scared animal is a dangerous animal.
- Outdoor dining. Outdoor dining has created some unsafe circumstances for pedestrians and diners. The additional chairs and tables, along with the reduced space for walking, poses a challenge to people trying to pass by.
- Acts of violence. Crime rates rise during the holidays. Though most increases are theft-related, robbery and assault are also more common. If you are a victim of an act of violence on someone else’s property because of negligent security, you may be able to file a claim.
Who can file a claim for damages?
Under Arizona law, a person may file a premises liability claim against a property owner if the property owner failed in his or her duty of care to keep your safe. What that means is that the property owner must have taken steps to keep visitors safe, and to alert them to a potential problem.
For example, say you are visiting a friend at his apartment. He lives on the second story, and the handrail is loose. When you grab the handrail for support it gives way, and you fall down the stairs. The owner of the apartment had a duty to ensure the handrail was secure so that people do not fall. As such, the property owner can be held liable for the injuries you sustained because of the loose handrail.
Protect yourself during the holiday season
If you cannot stay at home, there are some steps you can take which could reduce the risk of an injury while you are out and about.
- When you are in the car, make sure to follow the rules of the road. Stay off your phone, put your headlights on, and leave yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination.
- When you are at the mall or at a shopping plaza, park as close to the lights as you can. Put your purchases in the trunk, not the back seat, and try to make multiple trips back so that you always have one hand free to dial 9-1-1 in case of an emergency.
- When you are in a store, ask for assistance for items that are on the top shelf, rather than trying to grab them yourself. If you see a spill on the floor, alert an employee.
- Yield the right of way to parents with strollers or joggers, or people in wheelchairs, when trying to cross the street or pass a restaurant with outdoor dining. Better to wait a little longer than find yourself pushed intro traffic.
The holiday season is stressful enough without dealing with a serious personal injury. The attorneys of Plattner Verderame, P.C. can help you if you are hurt on someone else’s property because of the owner’s negligence. Please call us in Phoenix or Tempe at 602-266-2002 or complete our contact form.
Nick is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, the Arizona Association for Justice (formerly the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) and the American Association for Justice (AAJ). He currently serves on the AAJ’s Political Action Task Force and its Oversight Committee, and on the Board of Governors for Revitalization in Arizona.
Read more about Nick Verderame