If you’ve been injured at a store owned by the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer, you may be wondering how to sue Walmart.
Walmart lawsuits arising from personal injury or workers’ compensation claims are a nightmare. It is notoriously difficult to pursue legal action against any large, corporate entity, and Walmart is no exception. Walmart has practically unlimited resources to vigorously defend legal claims against them. If you have experienced a personal injury at a Walmart store, you need an attorney with intimate knowledge of handling these types of lawsuits – like those at TorkLaw.
Walmart is an archetypical American success story. Sam Walton opened the humble family-owned store in Arkansas in 1962. Since then, Walmart has expanded to become the world’s top retailer, with over 4,600 stores in the United States and 2.1 million employees worldwide. They sell over $400 billion worth of merchandise and collect almost $5 billion in worldwide revenue annually.
With that kind of cash flow, Walmart can afford to retain a cadre of elite corporate attorneys, who do everything they can to discredit any claims filed against the firm.
While most of the hundreds of millions of shoppers each year manage to complete their Walmart visit without incident, some customers, unfortunately, do suffer injuries of varying severity.
If you are suing Walmart in an attempt to recover damages, you may feel like David competing against Goliath.
You need strong legal representation and some knowledge about how to sue Walmart.
TorkLaw’s attorneys have that knowledge and are sharing it with you here. This guide will cover the basics of premises liability law, and describe how to take on behemoth companies like Walmart to receive the compensation you deserve. Click here for a printable copy of this guide.
Why Are Walmart Lawsuits So Difficult?
Personal injury lawsuits against Walmart are especially tough to prosecute, for one simple reason: Walmart provides its own liability insurance.
Why does this matter?
Most companies have liability insurance to protect them in the event of a premises liability lawsuit – that is, when someone sues them for an injury that occurred on their property. Smaller and medium-sized companies typically pay through a third-party insurer. All insurance companies do their best to avoid paying claims. But in most cases, the defendant will not directly pay the cost of the judgment or settlement – the insurance company will.
Walmart is so big that, rather than buying third-party insurance, it has created its own company to handle all liability claims. This means Walmart pays directly for any verdict or settlement reached against it in a personal injury case.
This gives Walmart a direct financial incentive to do everything possible to avoid paying any damages. They will try to dissuade you, to discredit or deny your claim, and will do their best to make your case as burdensome to you as they can.
What Kinds of Injuries Do Customers Suffer at Walmart Stores?
One of the most common injuries is a slip and fall, which occurs when a customer slips or trips and is hurt in a fall.
Customers can slip on all sorts of things, including spilled water, milk, juice, or oil. Customers may also trip over objects that have been left on the ground, or on uneven pavement in the parking lot.
Other types of premises liability lawsuits can emerge from broken equipment or poor maintenance: for example, a customer may cut herself on the broken edge of a sign or shopping cart; another may cut himself on a shard of broken glass when reaching onto a shelf for a jar of jam.
Falling objects are another common source of premises liability lawsuits, especially those that were in precarious positions on high shelves.
Walmart injuries do not just happen on store property. Walmart has also been successfully sued for injuries caused by its delivery drivers off company premises.
Lawsuits have even come about from intentional acts, such as assault — if it can be demonstrated that Walmart provided insufficient security to guard against the malicious act.
Over the years, all sorts of crazy things have happened in Walmart stores, from births and weddings to defective products, and much more serious crimes such as sexual assault, methamphetamine production, and even murder.
Walmart Lawsuits: Under What Circumstances Can I Sue Walmart?
Premises liability law offers varied protection levels for guests, with specifics differing by state. Generally, Walmart customers are “invitees,” granting them the highest legal protection. Walmart must actively ensure its stores are as safe as a reasonable person would expect, although complete safety is unattainable.
However, premises liability doesn’t cover reckless behaviors. If you misuse the store, like running while intoxicated or climbing shelves, you can’t sue for injuries. Instead, you might face a lawsuit or charges.
If you slip on a recently spilled liquid, it doesn’t instantly make Walmart liable. The store is only accountable if:
- It created the hazard.
- It knew but ignored the hazard.
- It should have reasonably been aware of the hazard.
Regular safety inspections help stores like Walmart identify and address such dangers.
Remember, these protections apply to invitees. Visiting Walmart for non-commercial purposes classifies you as a “licensee,” with different, state-dependent standards. Trespassers, like those breaking in after hours, generally receive no legal protection.
To win a lawsuit against Walmart, you must demonstrate:
- Duty: Walmart needed to address a danger.
- Breach: Walmart failed to act.
- Injury: You suffered significant harm.
- Cause: Walmart’s inaction caused your injury.
What Should I Do If I Am in an Accident at Walmart?
Step 1: Seek immediate medical attention.
After suffering any injury, your well-being is your first priority.
You may decide to put off seeing a doctor or waiting until you feel the need. This is a mistake. Some injuries are not apparent immediately after an accident, and other injuries that seem to be minor at first become more serious later.
Consider this: medical expenses are the backbone of any personal injury lawsuit. Receiving a full medical assessment of your injuries will help prove your case. The longer you wait to see a doctor, the harder it will be to prove your lawsuit, and the defense will not hesitate to use this against you in court.
If there is any possibility you will pursue a personal injury lawsuit, it’s best to see a doctor ASAP and get your injuries on record.
Step 2: Start gathering evidence.
Immediately after an accident at a store, it’s vital to capture evidence:
- Photographs: If you’re able, photograph the scene and injury causes. Slipped on a wet floor? Photograph the puddle. Item fell from a shelf? Capture the object and its placement. Take wide shots of the area and close-ups of the hazard from various angles.
- Witnesses: Collect names and contact details of any shoppers who witnessed the incident. They can later vouch for your claims.
- Preserve evidence: Retain the clothes you wore during the incident as they might serve as evidence.
- Surveillance: Most stores, like Walmart, have ongoing surveillance. Seek a lawyer’s help to obtain the footage, which can be crucial in showing the incident’s exact occurrence. Act quickly; some cameras overwrite old footage after a set period.
- Medical and work records: Keep a detailed account of medical treatments, expenses, and doctor descriptions related to the injury. If the accident affects your work, record lost hours or days to claim lost wages.
- Personal injury journal: Document how the injury impacts daily life or restricts enjoyable activities. This record can support claims for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Step 3: DON’T talk to Walmart! (You have no legal requirement to do so.)
Walmart is adept at handling injury situations. They might try to get a statement from you while you’re still recovering, which can be disadvantageous. Being in pain or disoriented can lead to unclear statements that harm your case. It’s best to refrain from talking to Walmart, its representatives, or anyone post-accident.
They might urge you to sign an incident report before leaving. Don’t. You’re not legally bound to do so, and it can be used against you. However, try to obtain a copy of that report for future evidence, but avoid signing it.
Often, Walmart outsources its legal claims to Claims Management, Inc. If they, or any other company, contact you for a statement, inform them to speak to your attorney.
If Walmart’s insurance adjusters believe they’re at fault, they may offer a settlement. While it might seem fair initially, it often doesn’t fully compensate for damages. You can generally negotiate for more if you operate from a position of strength.
Engaging a TorkLaw attorney experienced in dealing with Walmart is crucial. They are your strongest ally against the company and its representatives.
Step 4: Don’t wait.
In California, the statute of limitations for premises liability cases is two years; this means you must file the lawsuit within two years after suffering an injury in a Walmart store. Statutes of limitations in other states may vary, so check to be sure.
If you have suffered injuries, the countdown to the deadline begins the day of the accident itself. However, if a loved one dies from an injury they received in a Walmart store, then the countdown for a wrongful death lawsuit starts the day of the death, if it is different from the day of the injury.
The statute of limitations for property damage may be different from that for personal injury.
Statutes of limitations exist because evidence deteriorates over time. This includes both physical evidence, such as injuries and property damage, as well as people’s memory of the accident. Your attorney will want to collect evidence while it is still fresh.
Walmart Workers’ Comp: What If I Was Injured as an Employee?
When workers suffer injuries on the job, they typically go through the workers’ compensation claims process, rather than the personal injury legal system. There are a few circumstances when an on-the-job injury can lead to a lawsuit, such as if your employer acted with malice or extreme negligence. Otherwise, you should file a workers’ compensation claim rather than a lawsuit if you are injured as a Walmart employee.
One important difference between premises liability law and workers’ compensation law is that workers’ comp is awarded regardless of fault. This means that, unlike with customers who slip and fall in Walmart stores, you do not have to prove that Walmart was negligent to receive damages.
However, Walmart self-insures for workers’ compensation, just as it does for its general liability insurance, and this gives it a direct incentive to pay as little as possible to its injured workers.
Although Walmart promises to treat injured employees fairly and give them full compensation for their injuries, in practice, they may seek to limit or deny workers’ comp claims. If you find yourself in such a dispute, you may still need to hire an attorney, preferably one who has experience with the personal injury system and with Walmart claims specifically.
What If I Bought a Defective Product from Walmart?
With the hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of merchandise sold at Walmart stores every year, the law of averages means that some products will be defective. If you have bought a defective product from Walmart, it’s worth trying to resolve the issue without resorting to legal remedies, by returning the product and asking for a refund. If Walmart refuses to cooperate with you – or if you do not find out that the product was defective until it injures you – then a Walmart lawsuit might be your only option.
Product liability lawsuits are different from premises liability or workers’ compensation cases, in that it is relatively common to sue multiple defendants at once. If Walmart sold you a defective product, it is likely they are not solely responsible for that defective product, but instead share responsibility with multiple parties along the chain of manufacture and distribution.
In any case, if you have suffered injuries or other damages due to a defective product, you should contact an experienced products liability attorney. If your product was a mass-produced consumer good, like most goods sold at Walmart, many other people may have also been injured. You may become part of a class-action lawsuit or mass tort litigation, both of which allow many plaintiffs to come together to prevail against big companies like Walmart.
For millions, Walmart provides an abundance of necessary goods at prices working-class people can afford. In most ways, Walmart operates ethically. Nevertheless, when Walmart mishandles injury claims, it can be an uphill struggle for justice.
The attorneys at TorkLaw advocate for clients who have suffered devastating personal injuries. They know how to sue Walmart.
If you have been injured in a Walmart, call TorkLaw today to schedule a FREE consultation about your case.