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Expert Answer: Personal Injury Protection Advice

January 25, 2009

Subject: Accident at Wal-Mart

Question: What Happened:  While shopping at Wal-Mart on December 17, 2008, I was involved in an accident at my local Wal-Mart. My wife and I were standing in the back toy aisle looking for last minute gifts for our daughter when an employee came bursting out of the back room without so much as a beep from his pallet jack or a quick look to see if anyone was there. Now I was standing towards the end of the aisle but by no means standing in the doorway to the backroom at the time, but still the door hit me in the back of the head and the buttocks. This itself I may have said something to
a manager about carelessness and then shrugged off. Unfortunately for me the employee’s carelessness extended beyond not looking where he was going. On top of the pre-packed pallet the employee was pulling he had thrown a number of boxes rather haphazardly. (Stacked way past the clearly marked "Do Not Stack Above This Point" mark on the top row of pre-packed boxes, resting at odd angles, etc…) Several of these boxes fell and struck me in succession in the lower back from the center of the back to the right side. The entire area went numb for a few minutes after the impact but by the time I got to the end of the next aisle on my way to the customer service desk the numbness was replaced by severe pain throughout my back that started at the impact area and spread from there and pain that I couldn’t explain started shooting down my legs.  I filled out an accident report and heard the manager call to security to save the footage from the door going in and out. I called my doctor and made an appointment for later that day. (About an hour later, good doc) The end result is that the impacts caused a disk just above my pelvis bone to swell and protrude between it’s vertebra. Being
pressed between the vertebra was causing it to swell which is putting pressure on the spinal column. That is what is causing all the pain and weakness. He put me on Roboxin (muscle relaxer) and Vicodin (pain killer) and I have been on both since. He has also sent me to physical therapy to fix the problem, I have another 5 weeks of that.   I have been out of work since the accident but fortunately I have been put on FML (Family Medical Leave) so my job will still be there when I get back. The scary part is that both my doctor and physical therapist have told me separately that I will never be fully healed from this. Physical therapy will get me as far as I can go but the exercises and stretches will need to be kept up with once I’m released from their care, but the damage that has been caused to the nerves by the impact and subsequent pressure will never heal and I can expect some amount of pain the rest of my life. (to a greater or lesser degree depending on how hard I push my back. I have also been told by both doctor and physical therapist that I will not be able to return to job and need to get retrained to do something that will keep off of my feet.  What should I expect or ask for?

Answer: Patrick, I can provide some suggestions for you to pursue regarding this area of personal injury protection.  However, as I do not represent you, or know whether you are currently represented by an attorney, please consult with an attorney in your area to get more details on what your legal rights may be.  My first suggestion to you is to speak with an attorney that specializes in personal injury protection cases as soon as possible.  I don’t know whether you have had any contact with Wal Mart since 12/17, but you need to make sure Wal Mart saves the security video which apparently was in the area.  A personal injury attorney, particularly one that has handled claims against Wal Mart before, will know exactly what to do to preserve the video.  However, unless they are asked to preserve the video, Wal Mart and many other stores, will destroy it after a certain period of time.  An attorney will also be able to answer your ultimate question, which is, what your options are at this point.  Your email doesn’t indicate where this happened.  I am located in Florida, so the laws in your state may be different.  However, generally a store such as Wal Mart owes a duty to its customers to maintain the store in a reasonably safe condition, and to warn customers of dangerous conditions that a customer might not be able to appreciate on their own.  By running a pallet jack through a set of doors with boxes piled too high, and with customers in the area, it is my opinion that Wal Mart has breached their duties owed to you as a customer. By hiring an attorney specializing in personal injury protection claims, you can move forward with attempting to recover damages you suffered in this claim.  In Florida, you would be allowed to pursue a claim for lost wages, loss of future earning capacity (if you are unable to return to your level of income because of your injuries), past and  future medical bills, and for pain and suffering, and loss of ability to enjoy your life.  You should also have a personal injury protection attorney check to see whether the Wal Mart in which you were injured has "Medical Payments" (MedPay) insurance coverage.  MedPay is a part of a general liability policy that will cover your out of pocket medical expenses.  I have handled several claims against Wal Mart and have found some stores have MedPay, and some do not.  You will need to write to Wal Mart and ask them whether they have this type of coverage.  Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.  

For more information about personal injury protection, contact South Florida injury attorney Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 or email him today.

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