Though not as well-known for their role in big-box accidents as their main rival, Home Depot, Lowe’s Home Improvement stores can be dangerous places.
“Big box” stores are physically large retail locations where merchandise is usually stacked higher than arm’s reach, sometimes even several stories overhead. This business model essentially combines warehousing and retail spaces into one, lowering storage costs and visually implying wholesale value for customers. However, it also tends to raise customers’ risk of serious accidents, especially when these retailers don’t establish and enforce rigorous safety protocols.
Anyone who’s been inside a Lowe’s Home Improvement store will recognize it as a clear example of a big box retailer. Customers at Lowe’s have fallen victim to many of the same kinds of accidents that are common to big box retailers, often with serious consequences.
Like any major company, Lowe’s has an internal system in place to handle complaints, and its purpose is to save the company as much money as possible in every scenario. If you’ve been injured at Lowe’s, or lost a loved one to a Lowe’s accident, it’s crucial to obtain qualified legal counsel as soon as possible, to make sure your claim is taken seriously and results in the full settlement you deserve.
Below, we’ll talk about some of the most common dangerous conditions in Lowe’s Home Improvement stores, how Lowe’s accidents happen, what your rights are as a customer or family member, and what to expect when pursuing a lawsuit against Lowe’s.
If you’re rather speak directly with a Lowe’s slip and fall accident and injury lawyer in Georgia, just give us a call or reach out through our online chat function to discuss your wrongful death or personal injury case against Lowe’s in a free consultation.
Lowe’s High Shelving Brings a Risk of Falling Merchandise
Being struck by falling objects is a serious danger inside warehouses of all kinds. Usually, the victims of these kinds of accidents are employees of the company in question, and Lowe’s employees have certainly suffered their share of them.
In Michigan in 2011, a woman was hospitalized when some bags of salt fell more than 20 feet from the shelves above her in the Lowe’s where she worked. The same year, in North Carolina, another Lowe’s employee was killed when a garage door fell on his head. Then, in Texas in 2015, yet another employee was killed by a falling stack of lumber.
Nobody should have their life stolen or altered by these preventable tragedies, and they are preventable, even in employee-only areas, through adequate and carefully followed safety procedures. Workers deserve safer workplaces than they often get, as we’ve discussed elsewhere on this site.
Adding customers to a warehouse-like environment, however, not only exposes them to any safety shortcomings that employees are already facing, but introduces extra risk factors. Whereas providing effective safety training and personal protective equipment is a major part of keeping warehouses safe for employees, customers are not offered protective gear and cannot be expected to behave like trained professionals in a high-risk job. When people enter a retail store that is open to the public, they expect — and are legally entitled to expect — that they will be safe as long as they follow the rules and use the ordinary level of care they would during any other low-risk activity.
Unfortunately, big box warehouse stores usually turn out to be more warehouse than store in terms of safety, and falling objects are a big part of that. One West Virginia woman is suing Lowe’s for just this kind of accident. According to her complaint, a rug fell out of an unsecured upper bin, hitting her head and neck and causing long-term disability.
If you or your loved one were struck by falling merchandise at Lowe’s, you are not alone, and you almost certainly have grounds for a wrongful death or personal injury lawsuit against Lowe’s.
Putting Customers and Forklifts in the Same Space Is Always Risky
Another symptom of combining warehouse and retail spaces is the contact between customers and heavy machinery, especially forklifts.
As a hazard, forklifts are easily underestimated because of how relatively slowly they move, but they require special training to operate because of how much can go seriously wrong. For one thing, forklifts are used for transporting heavy loads, often moving them to or from a significant height. A miscalculation can cause a deadly avalanche. A forklift’s forks can also pose a tripping or crushing hazard, and forklifts can be involved in serious collisions just like any other vehicle. This is especially true if the driver is distracted by the activities going on around them, or struggling to manage too many of the forklift’s functions at once.
Safe forklift use involves not only a trained operator at the controls, but a wide, bystander-free buffer area around the work being performed. Too often, big box stores neglect this requirement because they’re hesitant to block off areas of their sales floors every time it’s necessary for forklift operators to do their jobs. As a result, customers end up in the danger zone without even knowing there’s anything to worry about.
According to another recent lawsuit against Lowe’s, a man had his foot run over by a forklift while making a delivery to a Lowe’s location in Virginia.
If your Lowe’s accident resulted from close proximity with a forklift, there’s a very good chance you have a viable case.
Trip/Slip and Fall Accidents in Lowe’s Are Also a Serious Issue
Trip and fall/slip and fall accidents aren’t isolated to big box stores — they can happen on any kind of property where management doesn’t pay close enough attention to potential hazards — but they do come up particularly frequently in allegations of dangerous conditions in Lowe’s Home Improvement.
Part of the trouble is how slick hard concrete floors can become with just a little bit of liquid, combined with the need for water in the garden section of these stores. In Nevada in 2013, a woman slipped on the runoff from plants that were being watered by hand instead of through the store’s professional irrigation system. The dangerous floor conditions were marked with a single caution cone, which the woman’s legal counsel argued was obscured from view by a tall planter. Her counsel’s investigation also uncovered 28 recorded cases of fall accidents at the nearest 13 Lowe’s locations over the previous five years. The woman suffered permanent brain injuries, including loss of smell and taste, and she was ultimately awarded $16.4 million in damages.
The slipping hazards in Lowe’s don’t appear to have ended there, however. In 2016, an Illinois man filed a similar suit after allegedly slipping on a wet floor in Lowe’s and suffering permanently disabling injuries.
The less-polished standard appearance of big box stores can also make it easier for tripping hazards to go unaddressed until an accident happens. As recently as 2020, a woman was awarded $4 million after tripping on a power cable running to a display in a New Jersey Lowe’s location.
If your injury or loss resulted from a trip or slip and fall accident in Lowe’s, it likely wasn’t a matter of simple, blameless clumsiness. Rather, it’s probably part of a pattern that Lowe’s had a responsibility to address before it ever had the chance to affect you.
Lowe’s Home Improvement Is Responsible for Providing a Safe Shopping Environment
Regardless of their decision to invite customers into warehouse spaces, companies like Lowe’s are legally responsible for making sure any property they open to the public is reasonably safe.
When pursuing a personal injury lawsuit against Lowe’s, you and your lawyer will need to prove three things:
- Lowe’s had a duty to protect you (this one’s automatic if you were on their property as a law-abiding visitor during business hours).
- Lowe’s failed in that duty.
- You suffered an injury as a result of that failure.
Failing to protect you might take the form of any of the examples above — not securing merchandise, not establishing a buffer zone around forklift work, not cleaning up or at least clearly marking slippery areas in a timely fashion — or countless other acts of indifference or poor judgement on the part of management.
The important thing to establish is that there was a hazard that Lowe’s management knew or should have known about, but failed to adequately address or warn you about.
As for suffering an injury as a result, this may be obvious, or it may be an invisible but still serious internal injury. That’s why it’s so important to seek prompt and thorough medical care after an accident. The severity and likely costs of your injury will be a significant factor in how large a settlement you’re entitled to, so it’s vital to get an expert assessment of how your condition is likely to develop, and how it will affect the rest of your life. That way, you don’t end up having your immediate bills covered but a lifetime of therapy or reduced earning power left on your shoulders.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured at Lowe’s Home Improvement
Immediately after being involved in a Lowe’s accident, you can protect yourself physically and financially by following these steps:
- Call for/accept emergency medical services if you need them. Do not delay necessary medical care for any reason.
- If you can safely do so, or if you are shopping with an uninjured companion who can do so for you, obtain pictures of the accident site and relevant hazards, and the contact information of as many witnesses as you can.
- File an accident report with Lowe’s. Report the facts as you know them, but do not comment or speculate on fault.
- Schedule a medical examination at your earliest convenience, if you did not already receive emergency care, and keep any recommended follow up appointments. This is important to both your physical recovery and establishing an admissible record of your injuries.
- Find and contact a qualified attorney who handles big-box accidents in your area. Do not wait to hear back from Lowe’s in response to your accident report. Without legal representation, you may not receive a reply, and if you do, the goal of the person replying will be to minimize the amount Lowe’s will have to pay.
Even if you didn’t follow these steps precisely starting from the moment of your accident, it’s in your best interests to talk with a lawyer as soon as possible about how to proceed. The sooner you can start referring claims adjusters and insurance representatives to your lawyer, the harder it will be for them to trick you into saying something that could damage your case, and the less hurtful and misleading discouragement you will have to listen to.
The experts at The Stoddard Firm are ideally suited to help people get the best possible results from Lowe’s personal injury lawsuits in Georgia. We know the company well, along with the ins and outs of personal injury and premises liability. We’re experienced at helping juries understand the true cost, literal and emotional, of all manner of injuries, including those that are harder to see. We also handle wrongful death cases and can walk you through this painful but ultimately helpful process simply and smoothly.
To get started with your free consultation, just send us a message through our online chat, or give us a call at 678-RESULT.