A slip and fall accident is a broad term used to refer to a variety of personal injury claims. The claims occur when someone slips or falls on another person’s property, due to the presence of some type of dangerous condition. The dangerous condition could be almost anything, but most commonly includes:
- Balconies, decks, and porches;
- Staircases and stairwells;
- Handrails and other support beams;
- Overhead lighting;
- Overhead shelving;
- Product displays; and
- Faulty doors, such as automatic or revolving doors.
When someone is injured in a slip and fall accident, they could have grounds for a premise liability claim. These are personal injury claims in which a claimant attempts to hold a property owner responsible for the injuries that they received while on their property. This includes any accidents and injuries that occurred in and around the owner’s business, or in their home.
Premises liability law requires property owners to ensure the safety of any person who enters their property; they are required to take all reasonable measures in order to accomplish this. Claims involving premises liability are commonly based on the legal concept of negligence. As a legal term, negligence refers to a person failing to exercise reasonable care, with that failure resulting in the damage or injury of another person. Negligence focuses on a person’s failure to take certain precautions and actions, instead of their direct actions.
What Are Some Slip and Fall Accident Statistics?
There are numerous organizations that collect data concerning slip and fall accidents. Such organizations include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”), Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to name a few. The following is a list of various slip and fall accident statistics:
- According to a 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, approximately 27% of the 900,380 nonfatal work injuries in 2018, which resulted in missed work days, were related to slips, trips, and falls. The same report found that slips, trips, and falls was one of the three leading causes of work-related injuries;
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 8 million emergency room visits each year due to falls, which is the leading cause of visits to the emergency room (over 20%). Slip and falls account for over 1 million of those visits (12% of total falls);
- According to the CPSC, floors and flooring materials contribute to over 2 million fall related injuries each year;
- One out of every three adults over the age of 65 will experience a fall related injury. In fact, the CDC released a report in 2005 which reported that 15,000 adults over the age of 65 died as a result of a fall; and
- Regarding workplace injuries, a 2019 report by “Injury Facts” revealed that 146 workers died and 153,140 workers were injured, as a result of slip and fall accidents. The same report revealed that fractures resulted in approximately 19% of injuries that occurred.
What Else Should I Know About Slip and Fall Accidents in General?
Some of the most common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Structural Defects: Ordinary wear and tear, if not properly repaired, can cause dangerous conditions for those on the premises. Some buildings were not constructed well to begin with, which presents its own issues. Common examples of structural defects include if a building has uneven steps, lacks handrails, has excessively slick flooring materials, or has cracked sidewalks leading up to it;
- Tripping Hazards: Such hazards include anything such as hanging electrical cords, damaged flooring, or inadequate lighting;
- Defective Safety Equipment or Failure to Use Properly Use Safety Equipment: As noted above, slip and fall workplace accidents are very common. As such the proper use of safety equipment is often required by employers. However, when proper safety equipment is not used properly, such as failing to properly secure a tether line when suspended from a building, significant injuries may occur. Sometimes safety equipment may also be defective, in such cases the manufacturer of the equipment may be held liable for any injuries resulting from the defective equipment; and
- Weather-Related Hazards: Generally speaking, property owners are required to try and minimize the risk of hazards resulting from adverse weather conditions. An example of this would be how a property owner may need to shovel snow and ice on sidewalks in the winter, in order to avoid being held liable for slip and fall accidents on or near their premises.
When someone has been injured in a slip and fall accident, there are several types of damages that they may be awarded should they pursue legal action. These damages awards generally include:
- Economic or Special Damages: These are monetary damage awards and generally involve being compensated for medical bills, lost wages, or replacement of broken property. Economic or special damages are awarded in situations involving quantifiable damage;
- Noneconomic or General Damages: Non-economic or general damages are intended to cover costs for items such as the injury itself, pain and suffering, disability or disfigurement, and loss of enjoyment of life. Noneconomic or general damages are awarded in situations involving damage that cannot necessarily be calculated; and
- Punitive Damages: Punitive damages are intended to punish the property owner when their negligence was particularly egregious. Punitive damages are rarely awarded.
Slip and fall accident claims are often settled out of court. In exchange for giving up the slip and fall legal claim, the insurance company pays the claimant either a lump sum or some kind of structured settlement allotment.
The value of such a settlement depends on many factors, including but not limited to:
- The nature of the injuries sustained;
- Amount of recovery time;
- The value of the victim’s lost wages and medical bills;
- Whether there is conflicting evidence found in the claim, such as contributory negligence; and
- The severity of the property owner’s breach of duty to the plaintiff.
If the matter remains in court, there are several defenses that the property owner may be able to assert against a slip and fall claim. Some examples of such defenses might include:
- Comparative negligence or contributory negligence, as previously mentioned;
- Assumption of risk on the part of the plaintiff;
- Failure to prove the elements of a negligence case, which are referred to as affirmative defenses;
- Statute of limitation violations;
- The owner did in fact take reasonable care to prevent an injury, such as posted warnings signs or cleaned up spills; and
- Lack of fault. An example of this would be how a reasonable person would have been able to recognize the highly visible danger. As such, they would have chosen a safer route whenever possible. Another example of this defense would be if the dangerous condition that caused the injury was actually open and obvious to any other reasonable person.
Do I Need an Attorney for Slip and Fall Accidents?
If you have been injured because of a property owner’s negligence, you should consult with an area slip and fall attorney as soon as possible. State laws regarding slip and fall accidents vary widely, as do state laws regarding negligence, premises liability, and personal injury. As such, an experienced and local personal injury attorney will be best suited to understanding your state’s specific laws and how those laws may affect your legal options moving forward.
An attorney can help you gather evidence to support your claim, and will also be able to help you determine whether you will be able to file a lawsuit against those responsible for your injuries. Finally, an attorney can also represent you in a court of law, as needed.
If you are a property owner being sued over a slip and fall accident, an attorney can help you determine what legal defenses are available to you based on the specifics of your case.