Walmart is the single largest company in the U.S, with over 2 million employees worldwide, valued at $399.11 billion as of July, 2021.
This behemoth of a company has legal defense resources to match, and a general reputation for stinginess toward both its employees and the people who get hurt in the course of its business operations. It covers its liability with a combination of self-insurance and third-party insurance, both of which present challenges to those seeking compensation for their injuries and losses.
Self-insurance essentially means that a company promises to pay what it owes others out of pocket. This kind of arrangement gives the self-insuring company strong motivation to keep payouts as small and infrequent as possible.
On the other hand, dedicated insurance companies are always motivated to minimize payouts as well, and third-party Walmart insurers have proven themselves no less ruthless than the norm. In 2017, two Walmart insurers even sued Walmart itself, to try to avoid reimbursing the company for a settlement it had paid.
Walmart’s staggering size makes it an intimidating legal opponent for any injured individual or grieving family, but if you have the right lawyer for suing Walmart, it is possible to get the compensation you deserve.
Walmart’s road safety issues are worthy of their own dedicated page, which you can find here. Below, we’ll go into other types of premises liability associated with Walmart, from slip and fall accidents in Walmart stores to accidents involving Walmart products. We’ll discuss when you can sue Walmart, and what to expect if you do.
If at any time you’d prefer to discuss your case directly with a Georgia lawyer who’s qualified and willing to take on Walmart, just reach out by phone or chat.
How to Sue If You Were Accidentally Injured While Shopping at Walmart
Walmart slip-and-fall accidents, falling merchandise accidents, and other simple accidents caused by unsafe premises are some of the most common reasons shoppers will suffer an injury at a Walmart and decide to sue.
There are plenty of occasions when businesses like Walmart create hazardous conditions, or fail to address known hazards in a timely manner, leading to shoppers sustaining serious, avoidable injuries. A classic example would be a spill on the floor that an employee knew about but did not mark with warning signs. When this kind of thing happens in a Walmart, the company is responsible for the damage.
Dangerous conditions at Walmart are a particular issue around Black Friday. According to a data survey performed by the business magazine, The Hustle, Walmart stores were the site of 70% of all reported Black Friday injuries spanning 2006-2018, as well as 3 out of 11 deaths.
Advertisements, news stories, and word of mouth about wild Black Friday sales full of messy and jampacked aisles are good for business, because they encourage the perception that these sales are extremely desirable. In reality, however, repeated Black Friday accidents and altercations indicate a failure to maintain a safe shopping environment.
If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall accident in a Walmart, or any other kind of avoidable accident on the premises, you’ll need to prove three things in order to win your personal injury lawsuit against Walmart:
- That Walmart had a duty to protect you. This one is automatic, as long as you were in a public area of the store, following all applicable laws and rules. Shoppers are legally considered guests of the business, which means the business has a duty to take reasonable measures to keep them safe.
- That Walmart failed in that duty. If there was a clear hazard that the employees knew or should have known about, that fulfills this requirement.
- That you suffered an injury as a result. To prove this, it’s best to get a medical exam as soon as possible after the accident to document the nature and timeline of your injuries.
The same basic requirements also apply to wrongful death cases, if you are planning to sue for the loss of a loved one. Either way, if these three conditions fit your situation, you likely have a valid case.
How to Sue If You Were Violently Injured While Shopping at Walmart
As hinted at in the mentions of Black Friday above, not all Walmart injuries are accidental. This is true year-round as well.
Walmart has long been notorious for its stores’ high localized crime rates, often much higher than the crime rates of their surrounding neighborhoods. As of 2016, violent crimes were occurring in Walmart locations at a rate of about one per day across the country, and the problem certainly hasn’t disappeared. As recently as July of 2021, a fight broke out in a Walmart in Mississippi over a self-checkout failing to dispense $0.22 in change. The conflict escalated to a shooting, injuring a woman in the parking lot and then two police officers.
Not all Walmart injuries are physical, either. In October of 2020, here in Georgia, a woman reported that a man had exposed himself to her and the three small children she was shopping with. While no one was physically hurt, sexual misconduct can cause very real psychological harm to its victims, especially to children.
If you were the victim of a crime at a Walmart location, and you want to sue Walmart, you will need to prove the same three things you would if you were suing for an accidental injury:
- Walmart had a duty
- Walmart failed in that duty
- You were injured (physically or psychologically) as a result.
Proving that Walmart failed in its duty is a bit tricker in these kinds of cases than it would be with a simple slip-and-fall. As a default, businesses are not responsible for the criminal actions of third parties. However, if a business has specific reason to believe that a certain kind of criminal violence is a likely threat to its guests, then that business becomes responsible for providing protection.
For example, the man accused of exposing himself to the woman and children is also suspected to be a repeat offender, based on previous security footage from the same Decatur Walmart location. If Walmart was aware of his past behavior in the store and took no steps to protect other customers from him, the company might be liable for the psychological harm he caused this family.
If the type of criminal activity that injured you or your loved one has been known to happen at the Walmart you were shopping in before, or in the close surrounding area, you have grounds to sue Walmart for providing inadequate security.
How to Sue If You Were Injured While Working for Walmart
Walmart employees are far from immune to accidents and crime connected with the company. In fact, one data survey spanning 2015-2016 found Walmart had reported the second-highest number of severe employee injuries out of all U.S employers.
More recent data shows a rate of 2.5 serious injuries for every 100 U.S-based Walmart employees in the year 2020. Though Walmart doesn’t have the worst safety record out of its competitors, that’s still a lot of serious injuries, when you consider that there are about 1.6 million U.S-based Walmart employees in total.
These numbers include not only in-store employees but also those in other positions within the company, such as driving and distribution center work, which carry their own dangers. One study of a single distribution center in Virginia with 685 employees found 34 OSHA-recordable injuries in a one-year period (mostly within the calendar year of 2016). Twenty-eight of those injuries were to employees with less than one year of experience, suggesting that a lack of early safety training may be a contributing factor.
Although businesses like Walmart do have a legal responsibility to keep their employees safe as well as their guests, the process of claiming compensation is a bit different for employees. Under workers’ comp law, employees usually cannot sue their employers if they have the option of covering their medical expenses through workers’ comp. However, Walmart has been repeatedly accused of denying employees the workers’ comp benefits they’re entitled to, or retaliating against those who use them.
If this has happened to you, you can sue Walmart for your injuries, and will likely be able to collect better compensation that you would have through workers’ comp. You can also sue if a family member was killed on the job at Walmart, and you were denied workers’ comp death benefits.
How to Sue If You Were Injured by a Defective Walmart Product
If, rather than suffering an injury on Walmart premises, you bought a defective product from Walmart, you may be able to sue Walmart on the grounds of product liability.
As with premises liability and on-the-job injury suits, you will need to prove that you were injured as a result of Walmart’s negligence. Simply buying a product that doesn’t work isn’t enough. You’ll need to show that you were using the product as directed, without modifying it, and that you or your loved one were injured because something about its design or construction made it unreasonably dangerous.
Suing a retailer like Walmart for product liability in Georgia can be tricky, because Georgia law emphasizes the responsibility of the manufacturer much more than the seller. However, if Walmart already knew that a product was dangerous and continued to sell it, it might share liability.
For example, Fisher Price just issued a recall for yet another of its inclined baby soothers, which was being sold through Walmart, among other retailers. These types of devices have been linked with child suffocations for over a decade now, yet Fisher Price keeps reintroducing them with small modifications. It could be argued that retailers like Walmart, as well as Fisher Price itself, should know better by now.
There’s no need to choose just one defendant when you have a valid product liability case; you can sue Walmart and the manufacturer simultaneously, and possibly other entities within the distribution chain as well.
What to Do If You May Need to File a Walmart Lawsuit
If you or a family member were injured on Walmart premises, while working for Walmart, or by a defective Walmart product, your top priorities should be safety, health, evidence preservation, and protecting your legal rights, in that order. To the best of your abilities, right after an incident occurs, follow these steps:
- Get yourself or the victim to a safe place, if applicable.
- Arrange medical care. Never skip this step when there are physical injuries, even if they seem minor at first. A prompt medical exam is essential to both your health and your case.
- Gather evidence. Follow this step only if you feel safe and well enough to stay where you are for a few minutes. Take pictures of the hazards, products, or environments involved in the incident, and exchange contact information with witnesses.
- Report the incident to Walmart. Do not discuss fault, enter into a dialogue, accept a quick payment, or sign anything. In cases of criminal violence, also make a statement to the police.
- Get in touch with a lawyer who handles cases against Walmart. The sooner you do this, the easier it will be to preserve harder-to-get evidence, like surveillance footage. Once you are working with a lawyer to sue Walmart, redirect all Walmart communications to your lawyer.
The Stoddard Firm has experience in premises liability, negligent security, product liability, employment law, personal injury, and wrongful death, and we’re passionate about holding big companies like Walmart accountable. To speak with a Georgia lawyer about your claim against Walmart today, just give us a call at 678-RESULT or reach out through our online chat function.