Trips, Slips, and Falls
Slips, trips and falls are consistently one of the leading causes of injury across the United States, with more than one million Americans suffering such an accident annually. Personal injury attorneys often use the term “slip and fall” in cases where a person slips or trips on property owned by another person or entity, and as a direct result of negligence. When a slip, trip or fall results in injuries, and is the result of failure to maintain property or direct negligence, the property owner can be held legally responsible.
Slip, Trip and Fall Statistics
According to OSHA, most industry accidents involve a slip, trip or fall, causing 15 percent of all accidental deaths. In fact, slips, trips and falls are second only to car accidents as a cause of death. There are two types of falls—same-level falls and those that occur from an elevation. About 65 percent of the injuries received from falls occur from a same-level fall, meaning the injury likely resulted from a slip on a wet or icy surface or a trip over a hazard, such as an uneven surface or items in the walkway.
More than half of all same-level falls occur in the wholesale and retail trades, i.e. big box stores such as Wal-Mart or Home Depot, restaurants and grocery stores. Although same-level falls are much more common than elevated falls, serious injuries or death are more likely to result from an elevated fall.
Why So Many Falls?
A person rarely falls because he or she is simply awkward or careless, rather the majority of falls can be attributed to poor walking surfaces and/or surrounding environments with a gamut of distractions. Floors which have had a spill, or those with bunched up floor mats, poor lighting uneven carpeting, stair risers which are not uniform in height, protruding nails or boards, or water and snow tracked inside during inclement weather can all result in a slip, trip or fall. Outside, public sidewalks may be broken or cracked to the point they cause falls, or hidden hazards such as a pothole in the ground can catch a person totally unaware.
Common Injuries from Slips, Trips and Falls
Between 20 and 30 percent of those who experience a slip, trip or fall will suffer a moderate to severe injury, such as a fracture, a head injury or a back, neck or head injury. Broken wrists are also a common injury following a slip, trip or fall. Slip, trip and fall accidents are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries, accounting for 46 percent of fatal falls among the elderly.
What are Your Rights Following a Slip, Trip or Fall?
When you are walking in a public place you have the right to be warned of any hazards which could cause you to slip and take a tumble. If there are warning signs of hazards ahead and you proceed anyway, you must assume at least a portion of the risk. However, if a known hazard has been ignored or knowingly disguised, it can be assumed that an accident will likely occur.
Poor lighting often disguises defects in walking surfaces or flat-out hazardous conditions, therefore changes in your “normal” walking environment must be made clearly visible to all pedestrians to safeguard their health. Walking surfaces should be properly illuminated with the necessary amount of contrast to enable walkers to see what lies ahead.
Under premises liability law, the bottom line in determining whether someone else was legally responsible for your injuries following a slip, trip or fall is whether or not the property owner exercised due care to avoid such accidents, and whether your own actions or careless behavior significantly contributed to your fall.
Your Anchorage attorney can best advise you regarding whether a dangerous condition did, in fact, exist, and whether the owner of the property could reasonably have been expected to be aware of the condition. It must have also been reasonably foreseeable that negligence or failure to take action on the part of the owner would likely create such a dangerous condition.
Time is Of the Essence
Time will be a critical factor in this determination; if a customer spilled a soda on the floor of a fast food restaurant, and three seconds later you walked into the mess and found yourself on the ground, then the owner could not reasonably be expected to have removed the hazard before your arrival. If, on the other hand, the soda was spilled an hour ago and several employees walked by and did nothing to clean up the spill, your negligence case just became much stronger.
It is incredibly important that you have photos of the scene of the slip and fall as well as witness statements to corroborate your own account of your fall, to help your attorney help you. An experienced Anchorage, AK slip, trip and fall attorney from Kelley & Canterbury can ensure your rights are protected during this time. The Kelley & Canterbury attorneys pride themselves on their experience and legal knowledge, which allows them to be “On Your Side, At Your Side, Every Step of the Way.” Contact Kelley & Canterbury today at (907) 276-8185.