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Beware of Black Friday hazards

Black Friday has gone from anrare opportunity for special deals to an all-out phenomenon for shoppers. Retailers of all sizes and shapes are jockeying for position to get consumer dollars by showing previews this week of things that will be on sale. Also, most stores are opening on Thursday night, bucking the trend of opening during the wee hours of the Friday after Thanksgiving.

With blockbuster Black Friday sales comes chaos, with people stampeding stores in order to be first in line to take advantage of special deals. Our readers have probably seen (or heard of) news reports of people being trampled and seriously injured by fanatic mobs.

So what happens when a person is injured in the midst of a Black Friday sale? More importantly, who can be held liable for the person's injuries?

Generally speaking, a store owner has a duty to use reasonable care in keeping patrons safe while on its premises. This means that stores are responsible for taking essential steps to ensure that patrons will not be injured while shopping. This may include providing security to control crowds, having extra staff members available to expedite checkout, or even making sure that ice or snow does not create hazards in front of storefronts.

If a store owner fails to take these steps, and a shopper is injured, the store could be held liable for the shopper's injuries. This means that a shopper could seek monetary compensation for his or her injuries, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, as well as lost wages (if any).

Source: WJLA.com, "Best and worst purchases for Black Friday shopping," November 5, 2013

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