If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident at a Home Depot store, you have two main options: requesting compensation through the internal Home Depot claims system, or getting a lawyer to fight Home Depot for the compensation you need.
Most people’s first instinct is to offer Home Depot the benefit of the doubt by going through the company’s official channels. The problem with that instinct is that your case isn’t just an isolated incident that Home Depot might or might not decide to be decent about. It’s an expected part of doing business, and they already have a system established to deal with it. In other words, there really isn’t much doubt for them to benefit from.
Although Home Depot has shown itself more willing to pay settlements than some other retail giants, its strategy for handling claims is still intended to do what every corporate system is intended to do: protect the bottom line. When a customer reports an injury, large corporations will pay as little as they think they can — either in legal costs or directly to the customer — to make the problem go away.
In business, injured customers who don’t have legal representation are usually seen as easy targets for claim denial or lowball offers that sound like a lot but don’t actually come close to covering the long-term cost of a full recovery. Such injured customers are almost always coaxed into making admissions and providing extensive information to Home Depot such that if the customer does later hire a lawyer, Home Depot is in a favorable position.
Hiring an experienced Home Depot accident lawyer as early as possible in the process and rerouting all communication through that lawyer will protect you from potential mistakes and signal to Home Depot that your claim is one to be taken seriously.
If you’re looking for an Atlanta Home Depot accident lawyer, a Home Depot accident lawyer for any part of the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, or a Home Depot accident lawyer for anywhere in the State of Georgia, you’ve come to the right place.
On this page, we’ll go over some of the most common types of Home Depot Accidents, why they happen, what Home Depot’s legal duties are to its customers, and what it takes to sue Home Depot successfully. If at any time you’d like to talk to a lawyer about your specific case in more detail, you can set up a free consultation right away through our online chat function.
The Danger of Combining Warehouses with Sales Floors Has Been Known Since the 1990s
One of the main reasons serious accidents and injuries at Home Depot are as common as they are is the “big box” warehouse format the company uses for its sales floors. Combining warehouses and salesfloors into a single space saves companies money on storage and impresses customers with a sense of abundance and wholesale value, but it can also create a serious gap in safety protocols.
Warehouses are inherently hazardous places, where workers use heavy machinery to move and store cargo high overhead. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires companies to protect warehouse workers in a variety of ways, including providing thorough safety training and enforcing safety procedures, such as staying clear of a load being lifted. Companies don’t always follow OSHA rules, of course, but at least they exist.
Customers, on the other hand, fall outside of OSHA’s jurisdiction. They don’t receive any special safety training or equipment before entering a Home Depot sales floor, and they don’t typically approach shopping as a dangerous activity that requires constant, extreme caution. That’s not the customers’ fault; shopping is not supposed to be a high-risk activity, and commercial spaces that are open to the public are implicitly expected be safe, no matter what they look like.
When warehouse-like spaces are opened to people who aren’t expecting or trained for the dangers, the results are accidents, injuries, and deaths.
This issue came to something of a head in the ’90s, when a cluster of deaths across several big box chains, many of them involving small children, sparked a series of investigations and legal proceedings. At one point in 1998, a Home Depot representative testified that the company was receiving 185 injury claims per week, many of them involving merchandise falling from the stores’ high shelves.
The Home Depot Accident Pattern Continues to the Present Day
Home Depot’s accident claims records are kept as proprietary business information, so there are no official recent statistics available to compare with that 1998 figure given in court. However, the company’s ongoing use of the big box layout is clear enough, and accidents have continued to happen.
In late 1999, a 79-year-old woman was killed in front of her daughter in an accident at Home Depot, when a heavy box fell on her from an upper shelf. Six months later, a 3-year-old girl was killed in a similar Home Depot accident, crushed by a load of kitchen countertops. Two more months later, an adult pair of brothers shopping at Home Depot were struck by 2,000 pounds of falling landscaping timbers. One was killed, the other seriously injured.
Even after all this, in 2001, a set of hidden cameras planted inside Home Depot locations by ABC News captured an array of safety violations.
This stretch of the late ’90s and early ’00s wasn’t simply a period of growing pains for the company either. In May of 2017, a falling display shelf at a Home Depot struck a woman across the face with a metal bracket, and as recently as January of 2021, an independent contractor was crushed to death under a load of drywall while making a delivery to a Home Depot.
Accidents at Home Depot Most Often Involve Falling Merchandise
As the above examples illustrate, one of the biggest problems with the warehouse layout at stores like Home Depot is the increased opportunity for heavy objects to fall on customers.
This will always be a danger in any store that uses “sky shelves” — the extra-tall shelving that big box stores use to maximize their storage and make their sales floors look full — but there are things companies can do to keep customers safer, even in this kind of setup.
For example, Home Depot’s own policies include some procedures for securing merchandise stored on higher shelves. However, these policies already existed in 2001, when that hidden camera sting took place, and the footage included images of merchandise hanging over the edges of high shelves and restraining bars being left unused. It seems these policies have not always been followed, and there’s no guarantee that they’re being followed now.
Legally, whenever there’s a reasonable measure a property owner can take that will reduce a known risk of harm to guests, the owner has a responsibility to take it. If you’ve been injured in an accident at Home Depot involving falling merchandise, there’s an excellent chance you have a case.
Forklifts Are Also a Frequent Cause of Home Depot Accidents and Injuries
Although spontaneous avalanches of precariously stacked merchandise are a legitimate concern in big box stores, when an object falls on a customer, it’s more often because of unsafe forklift use.
For example, the box that fell and killed the 79-year-old woman in 1999 was accidentally tipped over by a 19-year-old forklift operator who was working nearby. Likewise, the kitchen counters that crushed the little girl had fallen 10 feet directly from a forklift that was moving them. The girl and her family were outside the cordoned-off area where the forklift was operating, but the designated space apparently wasn’t big enough to protect them.
Something similar also happened in 2005, when a man was seriously hurt at a Home Depot in Georgia. A forklift’s cargo of plywood fell 24 feet to the ground and hit a barricade, pinning the man and causing spinal injuries. He and his wife were ultimately awarded $1.5 million.
Even the presence of a barricade or cordon is more protection than some other Home Depot customers have received, however. That same hidden camera footage from 2001 showed incidents of customers standing right next to or even ducking under forklifts on the sales floor.
In addition to dropping or knocking over heavy objects, forklifts can cause injuries in the same ways as any other vehicle or piece of heavy machinery, such as trapping hands or running over feet. The forks of a forklift can also pose a tripping hazard when in the down position.
Forklift accidents are entirely foreseeable, and are the company’s responsibility to prevent. In fact, simply keeping customers and forklifts far apart at all times is arguably the single most helpful change big box stores could make to improve customer safety, without completely altering their business model.
If you’ve been injured by a forklift at a Home Depot store, you almost certainly have a strong case if you choose sue Home Depot for compensation.
Home Depot Is Subject to General Premises Liability Law
Premises liability is based on the idea that property owners have a duty to protect people on their property from foreseeable harm. This duty varies depending on the reason people have for being on the property. The highest level of duty is owed to invited guests, which includes customers shopping in an open store.
So, in order to win a premises liability lawsuit against a property owner, you need to prove:
- That the property owner had a duty to protect you.
- That the property owner failed in that duty.
- That you suffered an injury as a result of that failure.
If you were injured at a Home Depot store while shopping and following the rules, and the accident that injured you was predictable or similar to others that have happened in the past, then your case meets all three criteria.
This applies not only to accidents that are specifically predictable in big box stores, such as falling merchandise and forklift accidents, but also unsafe conditions that crop up on other kinds of properties too, such as unmarked wet floors, uneven concrete, and other slipping/tripping hazards.
If You’ve Been Injured at a Home Depot Store, The Stoddard Firm Can Help
When selecting a Home Depot accident lawyer, there are several qualifications you’ll need to consider.
Ideally, you’ll want to be represented by someone highly knowledgeable on the specific dangers, history, and legalities of big box stores like Home Depot. To make sure your compensation is as complete as possible, it’s also helpful to work with someone who has plenty of experience in a variety of personal injury cases, so they’ll be able to explain your exact injuries and their likely lifetime costs clearly and thoroughly.
If the accident in question cost a loved one’s life, instead of or in addition to injuring you, it’s essential to find someone with experience in wrongful death law.
Obviously, in any set of legal proceedings, you’ll want to work with someone who cares about getting you the best possible outcome, and many clients also find the litigation process easier if they know that they and their lawyer are working together toward something that will help others.
The experts at the Stoddard Firm are experienced in all relevant areas of law. We’re passionate about getting fair compensation for our clients, and about protecting others by taking the profit out of business practices that endanger the public.
Whenever you’d like to talk to an expert attorney who handles Home Depot accidents in Atlanta and the surrounding area, just give us a call at 678-RESULT, or reach out through our online chat feature.