Slipping, Tripping, and Falling: It’s Not Just About the Elderly
While the famous commercial catchphrase “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” might seem to associate slip-and-fall injuries with the elderly, persons of all ages can experience long-term and life-altering injuries from a slip-and-fall accident. When the accident or incident that caused the slip-and-fall was due to another party, you could be entitled to compensation, and a Boca Raton slip-and-fall lawyer can help.
The Most Common Causes of Slip-and-Fall Injuries
The causes of slip-and-falls will vary depending on the circumstances, but there are some situations in which the risk is greater. When there is a known risk, there is also a responsibility for the property owner who knows of the risk to proactively help guard others against harm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that some of the most common causes of slips and falls are as follows:
A spill refers to any liquid or substance that has been accidentally deposited on a walking surface, creating a slippery condition. For example, imagine a hardware store where a customer accidentally drops a bottle of oil, causing it to break and spill its contents on the floor. If not promptly cleaned up or marked with warning signs, this spill poses a slip hazard to anyone walking in the area, potentially leading to a fall.
Rainfall can create slippery conditions outdoors, especially when combined with smooth or uneven surfaces. An example of this would be a pedestrian walking on a city sidewalk after a rain shower. The wet pavement reduces traction, increasing the likelihood of a slip and fall accident if the individual is not cautious.
Loose mats, such as those placed at entrances or in high-traffic areas, can shift or buckle, creating tripping hazards. For instance, consider an office lobby where the mat near the reception desk has curled up at the edges. If someone doesn’t notice the uneven surface, their foot may catch on the mat, causing them to trip and potentially fall.
Similar to loose mats, rugs that are not properly secured can lead to trips and falls. For example, in a residential setting, an area rug in the living room may become wrinkled or bunched up due to regular foot traffic. If someone fails to notice the rug’s unevenness, their foot may catch on it, causing them to stumble and fall.
Stepladders are commonly used for various tasks, both at home and in workplaces. However, using them improperly or on unstable surfaces can result in falls. Let’s say a maintenance worker is using a stepladder to change a lightbulb in a warehouse. If the ladder is placed on an uneven or unstable surface, such as a wobbly floor or an uneven ground, it may tip over, causing the worker to fall.
Insufficient or inadequate lighting can hinder visibility and increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls. For instance, picture a dimly lit staircase in an apartment building. Without proper illumination, individuals using the stairs may misjudge their footing, leading to a misstep and potential fall.
Clutter refers to objects, equipment, or debris left in walkways or other areas where people move around. These obstacles can obstruct the path and increase the chances of tripping. An example would be a messy storage room in a retail store, where boxes and items are scattered across the floor, making it difficult to navigate safely.
Leaks from Ceiling
Leaks from the ceiling can create slippery conditions on the floor below, posing a risk for slips and falls. For instance, imagine an office building where there is a leak in the ceiling due to a plumbing issue or heavy rain. If the water drips onto the floor without being promptly addressed, it can create a wet and slippery surface. This can be especially hazardous if the area is not marked or if people are unaware of the leak, as they may unexpectedly encounter the slippery surface and lose their balance, resulting in a fall. Proper maintenance and timely repairs are crucial to prevent leaks and mitigate the associated risks.
Curbs are raised edges typically found between sidewalks and roads or parking areas. While curbs serve as barriers, they can also be a source of trips and falls if not navigated carefully. In some cases, it is important to mark or paint curbs to enhance their visibility and minimize the risk of accidents. For example, imagine a residential neighborhood with a crosswalk that has a curb ramp for wheelchair accessibility. If the curb ramp is not clearly marked with bright colors or contrasting paint, it may be difficult for pedestrians, especially those with visual impairments, to identify the presence of the curb. By marking curbs appropriately, such as using reflective paint or contrasting colors, it helps individuals perceive the change in elevation and take necessary precautions while navigating, reducing the likelihood of tripping or falling. Proper marking and maintenance of curbs are important aspects of creating safe pedestrian environments.
Sloped floors refer to surfaces that have an inclined or uneven gradient. These can be found in various settings, such as ramps, parking garages, or even within buildings due to structural issues. Sloped floors can pose a risk for slips, trips, and falls if individuals are not aware of the change in elevation or if the slope is excessive or unexpected. For instance, consider a shopping mall with an interior atrium where the floor gradually slopes downward towards the center. If there are no visual cues or handrails to indicate the slope, people may not anticipate the change in surface, leading to a loss of balance and potential falls. Proper signage, handrails, and non-slip surfaces can help mitigate the hazards associated with sloped floors and ensure the safety of individuals navigating these areas.
About the Duty to Protect Visitors
Whether a property is open to shoppers from the general public, paid-admission only, or even if an individual is invited onto private property, the property owner has a duty to protect visitors against the risk of harm by eliminating hazards or at least effectively warning visitors about them so they can be avoided.
For example, if a customer is making their way down a crowded aisle in a sought-after antiques store in an up-and-coming downtown district but trips and falls over a vintage tractor toy the owner decided to display in the middle of the aisle, the customer may recover compensation for their slip-and-fall injury. However, if the customer opted to place the tractor toy in the aisle, then forgot about it and tripped, the customer’s own insurance and budget would be responsible for any injuries that resulted.
To recover compensation for your slip-and-fall injury, what matters is whether or not the property owner had a duty to keep the premises safe and whether or not the customer could reasonably have avoided the risk and/or was aware of it.
The Kinds of Injuries that Slips and Falls Cause
A slip-and-fall leads to a collision of the soft tissues and bones of the body with whatever surface you connect with while falling. When the hard bones (without the padding of the head) strike a hard floor, for example, not only can the bones be impacted, but the brain can also be greatly harmed. Even if areas with soft tissue for protection strike first during the slip-and-fall, it is still possible to cause nerve damage and other internal damage that can have a lasting impact on the victim.
Traumatic Brain Injury
A traumatic brain injury or TBI happens when you experience a bump, blow, or penetrating wound to the head, and along with car accidents, a leading cause of TBIs is falls. Whether an individual experiences a fall from a high location or a fall on the same level, it is possible to strike the head on the ground or on other objects on the way down to the ground.
A minor TBI is often referred to as a concussion, and while you might regularly hear of this injury associated with contact sports like football and hockey, it also often happens from the impact of the head and body that occurs during a fall. Even a minor brain injury can lead to long-term and life-altering symptoms including difficulty concentrating and changes in irritability.
When an injury changes the way in which you are able to enjoy your life and work to support yourself and your family, a local personal injury attorney with a slip-and-fall practice can help you collect the compensation you need to address your damages.
Spinal Cord Injury
The Journal of Spinal Cord Medicine studied some 6,408 individuals who experienced spinal cord injury over the course of nine years, and it was found that 29% of the persons injured (some 1,877 individuals) suffered spinal cord injuries that were caused by falls.
A spinal cord injury happens when the spinal nerves are damaged, which are the body’s most important nerve bundle. The most common cause of spinal cord injury is trauma to the backbone. More often than not, a spinal cord injury happens when trauma breaks and squeezes the bones of the back known as the vertebrae. When a person experiences a spinal cord injury, they may lose function in parts or aspects of their body, resulting in partial or complete paralysis.
Big Box Stores Have a Responsibility to Keep the Parking Lot Safe and Free of Undue Hazards
While online shopping at giants like Amazon has decreased in-person shopping but increased road traffic with delivery vehicles, Walmart and other big box stores continue to draw large crowds of shoppers. The heavy traffic and at times irrational driving happening in retail parking lots can be stressful and also leads to a great many accidents each year that impact pedestrians.
Overly crowded or poorly managed parking lots that cause accidents may lead to liability on behalf of the property owner or manager for any injuries that result from the accident. For instance, News Channel 8 reported several years ago that a pedestrian was hit and killed by a car in the Walmart parking lot in Hialeah Gardens. Negligent drivers may likewise be liable in whole or in part, with the unique facts and circumstances of the accident determining what options might be available to you.
For example, if a shopper has parked, placed her child in a stroller, and has started walking into the store but ends up tripping and fracturing bones in her hip due to a pothole, she could be entitled to damages from the retailer. Any injury to the child, as well as future medical costs and lost earnings potential, and even changes in quality of life and attainment level, could be available as compensation. Measuring what you might be owed and putting together a strong enough claim to collect it can be difficult, but your local Boca Raton slip-and-fall lawyer can help.
Concert and Sporting Venues Must Proactively Prevent Trip Hazards
If you have been injured at a sporting event, concert, or some other entertaining pastime, and the property owner, manager, or other entity was responsible for the conditions that led to your slip-and-fall, you may have a claim for damages. Entertainment venues have a duty to maintain the premises and keep it safe for the purposes for which it is intended.
For example, a concertgoer who leaps off of a speaker and breaks their leg will not be able to collect from the venue owner. However, if a concertgoer making their way down an aisle trips over a poorly secured power cord and breaks their leg, the venue manager could be held legally responsible.
Alternatively, if a venue manager overbooks an event and as a result of overcrowding it is not possible to clean up broken glasses and ice from drinks and a slip-and-fall injury occurs, the venue manager would be liable. Entertainment venue managers have a duty to abide by the local laws and regulations that govern capacity, and when these laws and regulations are broken, they can be used as proof in the event you are injured and need to file a claim or case.
Employers Have a Duty To Keep Premises Safe for Employees
Employees are meant to be free of threats to injury and illness in the workplace. This is supported by standards established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which Florida has adopted in whole. OSHA requires that employers proactively engage in premises management to manage and minimize the threat of injury to employees, which includes addressing any hazards that might cause slip-and-fall injuries.
The National Institute for Safety and Health (NIOSH) notes that falls are a common hazard in a variety of work settings. In fact, falls are a primary cause of fatalities for construction workers. A fall can happen in the workplace when a worker is climbing a ladder to perform work, a complex series of events that lead to a fall from a significant height, or even simply while walking. An employer has a duty to maintain a safe workplace environment, and when a worker is injured they will generally be covered by workers’ compensation.
While we do not handle workers’ compensation cases, if a third party was also liable for the injury, additional damages may be available depending on the unique circumstances of your situation. Discussing your case with a Boca Raton slip-and-fall lawyer will help to ensure that you are able to pursue what you are entitled to for your injuries.
There is a Proactive Duty to Inspect for Safety
As detailed by the NIOSH, employers have a duty to invest in proactive efforts to maintain the safety of employees and mitigate the risk of falls. There are resources available including the Mast Climbing Work Platform Inspection Tool to assist employers in making their workplace safe for employees. Additionally, the National Campaign to Prevent Falls has been launched by NIOSH, with a focus on fall prevention. Falls can lead to serious injury or even death for workers, so the most effective strategy to support worker safety and reduce costs to construction companies is proactive efforts to support safety.
Long-Term and Life-Altering Injuries Lead to Sizable Financial Costs
The purpose of pursuing a claim or lawsuit to collect compensation for your slip-and-fall injury is not to become rich but to simply cover the present and future costs and damages associated with your injuries. If you have experienced a life-altering injury like a TBI, the way in which you live and enjoy your life and work to support your family may be forever changed. No amount of money can fix a long-term injury or remove the experience that led to it. However, complete compensation can ensure that you and your family are not left footing bills linked to your injury out of your household budget.
Damages for your slip-and-fall injury generally include:
- Present and future medical bills and associated treatments, including but not limited to medications, surgery, and rehabilitation
- Lost wages in the short-term and lost earnings potential in the long-term
- Pain and suffering and other available damages
Identifying what you might be entitled to can be difficult, and an experienced Boca Raton slip-and-fall lawyer will know exactly where to begin and how to effectively reach the best outcome the facts allow on your case or claim. The process requires the gathering of evidence to prove the liability of the property owner, the amount of your damages, and the timely filing of your claim in the appropriate format to the correct insurance company or other responsible party. If negotiations fail, we will bring your case to court on your behalf at our expense, and we only get paid if we win.
Connect with a Boca Raton Slip-and-Fall Lawyer from The Grife Law Firm
After you have received emergency medical care for your slip-and-fall injury, it is time to reach out to a local personal injury attorney from our firm. We have helped many slip-and-fall victims in Florida collect the compensation they require to cover the full costs associated with their injuries, now and into the future. You and your family should not have to pay for the costs linked to your injuries.
For a risk-free, cost-free assessment of your case, reach out to one of our experienced Boca Raton slip-and-fall attorneys. To learn how The Grife Law Firm can help with your slip-and-fall injuries, give us a call at 561-998-0770, or visit our site to schedule a consultation.