I read a Minnesota lawyer's post today that described his state's mentality toward victims of slip and fall incidents, which closely mirrors Alabama's: put simply, don't waste your time! Those who recover from slip and fall injuries are not the injured persons, but often the treating physicians who can charge the injured patient upwards of $1,000 an hour for a deposition or testimony about the treatment they provided. (This was an actual dollar quote I got from a doctor treating a client of mine, which was maddening and made me wonder how I could possibly ask all the questions I needed answered in as little time possible. Think, auctioneer-style.) Needless to say, this Minnesota lawyer's frustration echoes my own.
Alabama premises liability law only requires businesses to use reasonable care in keeping customers safe. The law intends to put the burden on the store owner, but that's not the rule courts are enforcing.
In Alabama, premises owners must timely clean and repair all floors, stairs, sidewalks and carpets where customers are allowed to walk. They are also required to warn about the dangers they know or should know exist in their stores. However, stores routinely defend cases brought by injured customers by arguing the customer was at fault because 1) the danger to the customer was open and obvious, and should have been avoided, 2) the customer assumed the risk of walking/stepping/being wherever the accident occurred, or that 3) the store didn't know about the hazard or hazardous condition of the floor or merchandise.
The result is that there are many ways premises liability and serious injuries can arise. Simply going about your day in the mall, grocery store, on a car lot, or in a restaurant, you may not realize that YOU are entirely responsible for every accident you encounter, but you increasingly ARE the only one held responsible! This is not what the law intends, but it is often the outcome of premises liability suits. For example, even if you are cautious, serious and permanent injuries can occur from tripping, slipping and falling on a slippery floor in a retail store, on uneven sidewalks and curbs, on improperly maintained steps, as a result of inadequate lighting or security, or when products in a store fall on shoppers.
While the store or property owner is in a better position to prevent hazards, and warn of those they cannot prevent, they will defend their failure to do so by pointing a finger at the victim.