Shopping for Danger: Hidden Holiday Hazards to Avoid

For many, the holiday season begins on Black Friday, historically, the day that retailers finally emerged from the "red" into the black and started making profits. Today, despite the increasing popularity of online retailers, the day after Thanksgiving is still one during which crowds line up days in advance for door-buster deals and the corridors of malls across the U.S. are as congested as airport waiting areas. While it's unlikely that a trip to the emergency room is on the top of anyone's minds when heading to the stores, busy environments during the holidays can magnify the dangers that are present year-round.

Parking Lots

Dangers confront shoppers even before they step into a store. In fact, almost 25 percent of Black Friday accident claims occur in parking lots. Though car to car contact such as rear-ending someone or striking a parked car was most common, drivers also frequently hit poles, shopping carts and corrals, and even pedestrians. In rare cases, drivers can lose control of their vehicles with tragic results as recently occurred in New York when an elderly couple died after their station wagon struck a light pole headfirst.

With parking space becoming a valuable commodity in the days leading up to the gift-giving holidays, drivers can become more aggressive, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of accidents.

In the event that you cause an accident to a parked car that is not occupied, leaving a note with contact information is critical to avoiding a hit-and-run conviction. Many retailers also employ parking enforcement that patrol the lots. It is a good idea to proactively contact such an employee to locate the owner of the struck car as well as to act as a neutral third-party witness who may be able to provide information in later insurance proceedings. Finally, it is important to contact an attorney if there are injuries involved or if the damages to either vehicle are extensive.

Slip-and-Falls

Another danger that is magnified during the holidays--especially for older Americans--is fall accidents, which are a leading cause of injury-related hospitalization and deaths. With rushing crowds and excitement surrounding goods on sale, older adults are particularly vulnerable to slip-and-fall accidents. While store personnel are trained to monitor floors and aisles for fallen items or liquid spills, oversight can be lacking when the number of customers overwhelm the employees on duty. Moreover, as the temperatures fall, it is more difficult to maintain dry sidewalks surrounding store entrances.

To stay safe in stores and to avoid a life-threatening injury, shoppers should:

  • Alert store staff to slipping hazards such as spills, loose rugs or mats, or icy sidewalks;
  • Ask store staff for help carrying large or bulky items that may obscure one's field of vision;
  • Avoid shopping at peak hours and weekends when crowds are largest and wait times are longest; and
  • Use a cane or walker and ask for scooters if the store has them available.

If you or a loved one is involved in either an accident that occurred in a store parking lot or suffers a fall near or inside a store, it is important to remember that early contact with an attorney is critical. An experienced lawyer from The Pittman Firm can quickly evaluate your case and devise a plan to gather factual information and witnesses to strengthen your claim. Call us today for a free consultation.

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