You Better Watch Out: Stay Safe this Holiday Season

By Richard L. Purtz, boardcertified trial attorney, Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A.

You are probably already making lists of things that need to be done during the hectic holiday season that seems to start earlier and get busier every year. I’m not being Scrooge when I say you might also want to make a list of things to watch out for this holiday season.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s holidays are among the busiest travel periods during the year. It’s important to note there’s another black day to think about in addition to Black Friday. It’s Blackout Wednesday, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

This Wednesday has also become known as Drinksgiving, because it’s often when college students and other people heading out for a four-day weekend start their celebration by drinking. It’s the beginning of the most dangerous season on the roads, as alcohol-related crash numbers stay high until New Year’s Day.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 528 people were killed in drunk driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2017, the latest statistics available. Additionally, one-third of all fatalities during the Thanksgiving holiday involve drunk drivers.

Then there’s Black Friday and the shopping ramp-up to Christmas. Black Friday injuries are not uncommon in the frenzy of people rushing into stores to snap up deals. The first Black Friday death came in 2013 when shoppers in Long Island trampled a Walmart employee to get to items on sale.

While stores have a responsibility to make sure no hazards can cause injury to customers, they are also responsible for keeping shoppers under control.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued crowd control guidelines for all stores to follow that include:

  • Setting up barricades or rope lines to handle crowd management
  • Preparing the staff for the opening of the store
  • Staffing entrances with uniformed guards, police or other authorized personnel
  • Locating sale items in different parts of the store to prevent overcrowding
  • Provide crowd and entry management measures at all entrances

In addition, retailers are responsible to do their best to make sure shopping is the safest it can be. Even so, OSHA reports that 9 out of 10 customer accidents result from some form of negligence on the part of the store owner.

According to the National Retail Federation, the most common store accidents include:

  • Wet floors
  • Dirty floors
  • Improper signage – Recently mopped floors may not have the proper “Wet Floor” signs
  • Merchandise/displays – Many times the aisles are filled with displays of stacked merchandise that could fall, causing injuries
  • Elevators/escalators – Defective or malfunctions could result in personal injuries.
  • Cracked or broken flooring

If you are injured while shopping, you will need evidence to prove negligence. It’s important to do the following:

  • Seek immediate medical help, even if you believe you didn’t suffer serious injuries
  • Call the manager or storeowner and ask to complete and get a copy of a department store incident report
  • Get the contact information for any witnesses
  • Take photographs or video of the scene
  • Keep all clothing and any personal belongings from the time of the accident, as they may be necessary as evidence.

Being aware of the possible risks during the holidays is a good way to be proactive and make your season safer. No one should have to deal with an accident during the holiday season, especially one caused by negligence. If you or a loved one are injured due to a shopping or car accident, seek advice from attorneys experienced in personal injury cases and premise liability laws.

About the Author

Richard L. Purtz, managing partner of Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, emphasizes personal injury, wrongful death and insurance claims litigation. He is rated “AV” Preeminent Civil Trial Attorney, which is the highest ranking under the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating system and is listed as one of Florida’s “Super Lawyers.”