In a bizarre accident, an employee at a Home Depot in Roswell, Georgia was impaled by a crowbar. The excellent news is that she survived the incident and was sent to WellStar North Fulton Hospital for surgery. She is listed in stable condition.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the employee “was standing on a forklift in the store’s receiving area when officers arrived. Police said she couldn’t move because the crowbar went through her abdomen and the other side was stuck to a cardboard compactor behind her. Officers noted there was little blood at the scene because the crowbar was keeping pressure on the wound.”
Impalement injuries are incredibly rare – and incredibly serious
Despite what medical dramas on TV tell us, impalement injuries are, thankfully, rare. But when they do occur, they are catastrophic in nature, and most thoracic impalement injuries prove fatal because so many of our vital organs are housed within the ribcage. The woman in the AJC story was very lucky to survive. It appears the crowbar did not hit any vital organs, and it actually kept enough pressure on her wound that bleeding was minimal. That may have been the key to her survival.
For example, a 2018 article published in the Chinese Journal of Traumatology also talks about an impalement survivor, though the method of impalement was very different. A 25-year-old male rear-ended a truck at high speed. The truck was carrying an iron bar, which pierced the windshield and impaled the driver of the vehicle. Per the article, “[t]he patient was stuck at the accident scene for almost an hour with severe pain and mild continuous bleeding.” The “rusted metallic rod pierced the chest wall, fractured the adjacent ribs and pierced the right lung parenchyma [which] lead to continuous bleeding.”
The pressure on the wound was likely a key to the patient’s survival as well. The iron rod that pierced the driver was significantly larger than a crowbar, yet the patient’s bleeding was also minimal. In both cases, emergency services were able to stabilize the object and get the patients to hospitals for immediate treatment.
More common causes of injuries in “Big Box” stores
Just because impalement injuries are not high on the list of ways to get hurt at work, it does not mean that “Big Box” stores – retail stores with a large footprint typically over 50,000 sq/ft – are always safe. Home improvement stores, wholesale clubs, and even large retail establishments often have large shipping and receiving departments and storage spaces. As such, workers and customers face similar injury risks in these stores as they would in a typical warehouse. Those risks include:
- Being hit or crushed by falling objects;
- Being injured by forklifts and other motorized vehicles;
- Falls from ladders and motorize lifts;
- Injuries from machinery, such as paint shakers and garbage crushers;
- Slips, trips, and falls onto flooring; and
- Trucking accidents in loading and delivery bays.
Who is liable if I am injured in a store in Georgia?
When an employee is injured, he or she can seek workers’ compensation benefits for medical expenses and lost wages. When a non-employee is injured, like a customer or a third-party vendor, the non-employee can seek damages from the store or the store’s insurance company. However, many times the store or insurance company refuse to pay for the injuries sustained, and the non-employee may only be left with the option to file a personal injury lawsuit against the store.
In Georgia, the type of claim you file is likely to be determined by the exact nature of the accident. The most likely options include:
- Premises liability claims: Property owners and managers owe their visitors a duty of care. If a retail store is unsafe and a person sustains an injury, those owners and managers may be liable for the injuries. For example, if an item falls from a shelf and injures a customer, the store may be liable.
- Product liability claims: If a product has a faulty design, or if an error was made during manufacturing, injury victims may seek compensation from the manufacturer. You can also file a product liability claim for failure to warn about potential dangers associated with the product. For example, if a forklift has a tendency to tip over when it is driven at a certain speed, but there is no warning to users about this potential for tipping, an injured employee or customer could have a claim against the manufacturer, retailer, or other third-party involved in the production, sale, and/or design of the forklift.
- Wrongful death claims: If an incident in a store causes a fatal injury, surviving members of the family, as well as the estate of the deceased, can file a lawsuit to collect damages associated with the wrongful death claim.
If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury while shopping, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages – the losses and harm you sustained as a result of the incident and resulting injury. The trial attorneys of Harris Lowry Manton LLP can help you plan your next steps forward. To schedule a free consultation, please call us in at Atlanta at 404-998-8847 or in Savannah at 912-417-3774, or fill out our contact form. We proudly serve clients throughout Georgia.
Steve Lowry is an award-winning litigator who has secured record-setting jury verdicts on behalf of his clients. A passionate advocate for individuals who have been harmed by the actions of others, Steve has won numerous top 10 verdicts in Georgia.
Read more about Stephen G. Lowry here.