Everyone in New York, and around the country, has shopped at the “big box stores”–Wal-Mart, Costco, Target, BJ’s, Lowe’s, and Home Depot, to name a few. Heavy merchandise is stacked high up on the shelves, as much as twenty to thirty feet in the air, and the question is: “Are these stores safe?” The answer for many of our personal injury clients in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, White Plains, and the entire lower Hudson Valley is a resounding “No!” Every day around the country, customers at these establishments are being seriously injured by falling merchandise, which has been improperly stacked, carelessly arranged, or placed without the necessary safety cables or other devices to prevent accidents. The ABC News program “20-20” highlighted the dangers of falling merchandise accidents a few years ago.
If you or a loved one is seriously injured as the result of falling merchandise at one of these stores, we offer the following do’s and dont’s:
Do make sure you report the accident, preferably to a manager, and if you give any statement at all, make sure you review the statement closely and get a copy before you leave the store;
Do obtain the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses to the accident;
Do insist that the merchandise which struck you is photographed and preserved as evidence, and if the store will not photograph the merchandise, try to do this yourself if possible (even with a cellphone camera if nothing else is available);
Do get medical attention immediately, including accepting the store’s offer to call an ambulance for you;
Do not sign any statement in which the manager attempts to attribute part or all of the fault of the accident to you, or includes a section in which you discuss what “you could have done differently”;
Do not give a recorded statement to any store representative, claim adjuster, or insurance representative, who calls within a day or week of the accident “just to see how you are doing”;
DO NOT SIGN ANY RELEASE OR ADMISSION OF RESPONSIBILITY IN EXCHANGE FOR THE STORE’S “GENEROUS OFFER” TO PAY YOUR MEDICAL BILLS.