Slip and fall- can happen to you or me at any time. But it won’t just be a laughing matter or a minor embarrassment all the time. The impact of a slip and fall accident could even be disastrous. The same applies when someone trips on a broken or cracked public sidewalk.
A personal injury case in which an individual falls or trips and is injured on someone else’s property is known as a ‘slip and fall’. There are two types of slips. The heel of the forward foot meets the surface and slips forward causing the individual to fall backward. The other type of slip happens when the back foot slips backward applying force to the sole of the back foot to move forward.
I make no assertions that all slip and fall accidents cause injuries. Though slips and falls are not the leading cause of fatal workplace accidents, they are the leading cause of missed working days.
Nursing homes are yet another spot of slip and fall cases. Residents, especially when old aged could easily slip and fall due to spills or slick spots on the floor. They are susceptible to slip and fall injuries due to other factors like diminished eyesight, and delayed reflexes.
Slip and Fall Statistics in the US
Let us stare at some astounding statistics related to slip and fall accidents in the United States.
- 1 out of 5 falls cause a serious injury such as a bone fracture or a head injury.
- Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
- Every year over one -third of all adults in 65 years of age and older suffer a fall accident.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) says,
- 20 – 30% of slip and fall victims suffer moderate to severe injuries such as bruises, hip fractures, or head injuries.
- Slip, trip and fall injuries contribute to 20 % of all job- related injuries, which accounts for 12- 15% of all Workers’ Compensation expenses.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says,
- Floors and flooring materials account for more than 2 million fall injuries every year.
Where Do You Most Likely to Slip and Fall?
You can have a slip and fall at any place where you walk. It could be a shopping mall or your office. The following are the most frequently reported sites for slip and fall accidents in the US.
- Public restrooms
- Public gyms and pools
- Sidewalks, walkways, and driveways
- Residential houses
- Parking areas
- Hotels and resorts
- Bars and restaurants
Common Slip and Fall Hazards
The following hazards have been found closely related to slip and fall accidents in the United States.
- Spilled food and drinks
- Ice and snow
- Elevators and escalators
- Landscape hazards
- Uneven stairs
- Cluttered floors
- Ditches and potholes
- Slippery flooring materials
- Worn carpets
- Wet and slippery floor
- Inadequate lighting
Common Slip and Fall Injuries
1. Sprain and Strain
The immediate reflex of an individual after a slip would be to protect himself from falling. He would try to cushion the fall. This could cause a sprain in the wrist. Ankle sprains could be caused because of the uneven stepping of the foot during a slip. In sprain or strain, the bones are not damaged but the ligaments are injured or stretched. This may lead to severe pain, limiting the daily activities of the victim.
2. Bone Fracture
Bone fracture is a common outcome of a slip and fall accident. A break in the bone is medically termed as a bone fracture that may be across the bone or along its length. Swelling, bruising and deformity are the immediate symptoms of a bone fracture. The commonly fractured bones in a slip and fall accident are hip bone, knee bone, collar bone, and ankle bone.
A break in the upper portion of the femur which is commonly called a thighbone is referred to as a hip fracture. The injury may occur in the femoral neck, intertrochanteric area, Subtrochanteric area, or in the femoral head. Since the hip joint is so important to the ability to walk, a hip fracture could be crippling. It often requires weeks or months of medical treatment and rehabilitation to overcome
3. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Slip and fall accidents are the common cause of traumatic brain injuries. It should be noted that a traumatic brain injury has no relation with the head directly hitting the ground after a slip and fall. Even a serious blow to the head could result in an injury leading to bruising, bleeding and other physical damages to the brain. The degree of damage can depend on the nature of the injury and the force of impact.
4. Spine Injury
Slip and fall accidents in some cases may result in spinal cord injuries. This may be due to the damage of the vertebrae, ligaments or disks of the spinal column or to the spinal cord itself. Mild spinal injury may cause temporary weakness that may be cured in a few days or months. When nerve pathways in the spinal cord are destroyed, it can even lead to permanent paralysis.
Premises Liability in Slip and Fall Law
As per the slip and fall law, determining liability would be the key factor. Slip and fall injuries, caused by unsafe conditions on someone else’s property, are covered by premises liability law. Premises liability is an area of law that holds property owners liable for accidents occurring on their property due to unsafe conditions.
In any slip and fall lawsuit, the victim should file the claim within the Statute of Limitation period which would vary for each state. Lawsuits filed out of this period would not be considered by courts for compensation. The payout for a slip and fall accident depends upon the damages of the victim. Medical bills, loss of income, out-of-pocket expenses and pain and suffering are taken into consideration in terms of compensation.
In case of a slip and fall accident occurring in a residential home, the owner of the house or some cases, the landlord may be sued.
If the individual is injured in a commercial spot like a shop, the business or a particular employee could be held liable for the injury. If the business rents space from a property owner, both the property owner and the business may be considered as defendants.
If a slip and fall accident occurs in a property owned by the local, state, or federal government entity, special rules would apply.
To prove liability, the victim of a slip or trip and fall accident must prove any of the following
- The owner of the premises, or an employee, caused the hazard that was the cause of the fall.
- The owner of the premises, or an employee, noted the hazard but remained negligent.
- The owner of the premises, or an employee, should have known about the hazard and should have taken the necessary steps to eliminate it.
- The hazard caused injury to the victim.
I don’t want you to infer that just a slip and fall accident in a property owned by someone else would be enough to claim compensation. It’s knotted than you assume.
Some states like California, New York and Florida, follow the Comparative Negligence law where the victim’s contribution to the slip and fall is also analyzed. It is one of the strongest defenses used in slip or trip and fall lawsuits. Compensation in such cases would be determined by the degree of carelessness of the victim.
This is applicable in cases of slip and fall accidents where there is a clear “Slippery When Wet” signboard displayed. In such instances, it would be the victim’s carelessness causing the accident. However, the sign board would not help the defendant much if the lighting was poor, the board was not readable or there was no other way for the victim to go.
Majority of the states including Georgia, Texas and Indiana sticks to the Modified Comparative Fault. According to this, the victim could collect compensation from the defendant party as long as he is less than 50% responsible for the accident.
In Washington, Alabama, Virginia, and Maryland, the law of contributory negligence is followed. The victim cannot recover anything even if he is proved 1% at fault or careless in the slip and fall accident.
What if you are a trespasser and encounter a slip and fall accident? Sorry, you won’t be entitled to claim your injury unless your claim is proved different or exceptional.
After a Slip and Fall: What to Do and What Not to Do
Those initial moments after a slip and fall accident would be critical. Here are some do’s and don’ts that would determine the fate of a slip and fall lawsuit.
- Seek medical attention immediately even if you do not believe you’re injured
- Report the accident to the owner/ manager of the premises
- Get a written report from the premises owner regarding the accident
- Try to get the contact details of any individual who has witnessed your fall. Eyewitness testimony could be crucial when proving fault.
- Take a photograph of the area as well as the hazard
- Contact a slip and fall lawyer immediately
- Keep safe the shoes and clothing you were wearing during the slip and fall
- Do not ignore minor injury symptoms or try to treat them at home.
- Do not post your accident details or pictures on any social platform
- Before talking to your attorney, do not give any statement about the accident to the owner of the premises or insurance company
- Do not blame anyone on the spot of the accident
- Do not accept cash settlement before contacting your slip and fall attorney
- Do not sign any papers without your slip and fall lawyer’s advice
Simply falling or being injured at someone else’s property would not be enough to pursue a slip and fall accident lawsuit. The victim needs to prove the negligent action of the defendant party. Each slip and fall lawsuit hinges on whether the property owner took precautions to prevent the hazard or if the victim was negligent in avoiding the hazard.
It would be a smart choice to get advice from lawyers for slip and fall in such litigations. Gathering as much evidence as possible from all possible sources would be an important facet while pursuing the lawsuit. This would help the attorney to establish the negligence of the premises owner thereby assisting the victim with better compensation.
Above all, it’s always safe to watch your steps and protect yourself from slip and fall accidents. Because a slip and fall can do more than shake you up.