Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere; home, work, while shopping or dining, or taking in a movie. While most falls result in only bumps and bruises or the occasion broken bone, others can lead to disastrous results. Falls can be especially dangerous if it occurs on concrete or near protruding objects one can hit their head on. For the sake of this article, we will focus on workplace slip and fall incidents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that over 1 million Americans will experience an injury from a slip (or trip) and fall this year while on the job, and almost 20,000 of these will end in death. Each year, about 25% of injuries reported while on the job are due to slip and falls, costing about $70 billion each year in medical bills and compensation and over 95 million lost work days.
Knowing when and where falls happen can help employers prevent them before they happen and arm workers with knowledge of potential hazardous areas or circumstances.
Hazardous Surfaces: This is one of the most common causes of accidents. People don’t always look at every single step they take and may not see spilled coffee or a tangled power cord. Surface/flooring hazards include:
- Uneven and/or sloped surfaces, and transitions from one flooring type to another;
- Wet, greasy or freshly waxed floors;
- Sawdust on floors;
- Mats or rugs;
- Loose, damaged or missing flooring;
- Cords, cables, rope, tools, etc lying on floor;
- Irregular steps or stairs.
Weather: While we can’t control the weather, we can take some steps to minimize the damage it can do. Keeping floors and shoes clean and putting up “Caution- Wet Floor” signs during inclement weather will help. Here are common weather related issues:
- Shoes that are wet or muddy;
- Surfaces accumulating rainwater or mud;
- Hail on the walking surface;
- Sleet, ice and snow.
Improper Training: Some falls can be attributed to lack of training on an employer’s part. Uncommon surfaces require special training for employees to understand what makes a safe working environment, which may also include footwear with appropriate traction.
- Construction scaffolding;
- Potholes, manholes, and the like in construction;
- Narrow tunnels or passages;
- Ramps on docks, especially those without adequate non-stick surfaces;
- Improper footwear for the specific job.
Accidents involving falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), accounting for over 40% of all TBIs. It’s estimated that 20-40% of those that slip and fall will experience moderate to severe injuries. Injuries include:
- Bumps and bruises;
- Broken bones and fractures;
- Head trauma;
- Spinal cord injuries;
So who is responsible if you sustain an injury after a fall? If you are on property that belongs to someone else or if you are on the job, fault may lie with the property owner or employer. We all are responsible for watching where we are going and should be able to stay on our feet in most instances, but sometimes there are unavoidable pitfalls that any other person would have tripped over or slipped on. Here are some guidelines for determining fault:
Are they liable? – To hold some liable for a fall on their property it must be true that:
- They caused the dangerous surface, whether it is a spill or a broken tile; or
- They knew about it and did nothing; or
- It’s reasonable that they “should have known” about it as the caretaker of their property.
Is it reasonable? – A judge, or more likely a jury, will look at whether or not the defendant acted in a reasonable manner. Here are some ways to determine “reasonableness”.
- Had the issue that caused the slip and fall been an issue long enough that the owner/employer should have known? For instance, a hammer that was left on the floor within the last hour is probably not reasonable, but a step that has been broken for a month probably is.
- What is the regular maintenance schedule of the owner? Do they live out of town and only visit on site once a month?
- Was the tripping/slipping hazard there for a reason? Was it adequately labeled or not removed when it should have been?
Was it your own two feet? – In some circumstances, it could be your own carelessness that caused you to trip. Ask yourself these questions before meeting with an attorney or an insurance company:
- Were you texting or chatting with a friend? Where you running or jumping?
- Did you miss any warnings about the upcoming hazard?
- Would a cautious person have noticed the hazard and avoided it?
- Were you in an area you were permitted to be?
If You Need an Attorney
If you have been victim of a slip and fall accident, call Godsey Martin today at 1-877-IGOTHIT. You can speak to them about the details involving your case and get all your questions answered. Let them help you understand what your options are.
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