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Premises liability laws require retail merchants to keep you safe

Going shopping is not only dangerous for your checkbook or credit card balances but, potentially, also for you. You could slip and fall, slip on the ice in the parking lot or be hit by falling objects such as merchandise or displays. Premises liability laws around the country, and here in New Jersey, are designed to eliminate -- or at least greatly reduce -- the hazards that could lead to serious injuries or death.

However, not all shop owners or managers diligently maintain a premises by making sure that everything is in good working order. Further, warning signs need to be placed near hazards such as pools of water, broken floor tiles and the like. Failure to use reasonable care to protect customers, employees and other visitors to the store could be catastrophic.

Retailers are required to do things such as fix railings, replace burned out light bulbs and even provide reasonable security for shoppers. In order to establish liability for an injury or death, however, certain conditions must be met. First, it must be established that the owner or manager knew about the hazard -- or should have known. Second, evidence that routine inspections and maintenance were not performed would need to be presented.

It must also be established that the injury would not have occurred but for the hazard, and that there is a causal connection between the two. Finally, proof of actual damages is required before a New Jersey Court will consider awarding restitution. If you suffered a serious injury in a store -- or lost a loved one in a store accident -- having someone knowledgeable in this area of law to review the circumstances surrounding the incident may be in order.

You and your family should not be responsible for ensuring your own safety on someone else's property. The owner or party in possession of the premises has a duty of reasonable care to you. If that duty is breached, a premises liability claim may be in order.

Source: FindLaw, "Shopping Injuries Overview", Jan. 12, 2015

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