June is National Safety Month. This four-week event is observed annually to help people stay safe at home, at work, and on the road. In recognition of this month, we’ve put together weekly content to educate readers about major causes of accidents and injury. Today, we focus on the dangers of slip and falls, and the importance of preventing them. Stay tuned next week to learn how fatigue is a growing cause workplace accidents.
Earlier this year, the owners of a motel in Kenosha, Wisconsin were found liable for damages after a man slipped and fell on ice on their property, requiring surgery on his leg.
The owners decided to appeal the ruling in an attempt to reverse it. The appeals panel, though, believed that the owners had enough notice to discover and remove the ice, citing the testimony of a meteorologist who said it snowed the night before and froze overnight.
Put in simpler terms: ice had been on the ground all day, and no one did anything about it.
When it comes to slip and falls, we can sometimes see them as a freak accident — the victim tripped in unlikely fashion, resulting in severe injuries. But those injuries can just as easily come from falls caused by obvious and preventable mistakes, and that is what tends to be at the heart of these injuries.
This week marks the beginning of National Safety Month, the first week of which focuses on falls. Falls have become a major problem and frequent cause of injury, and while it remains important as ever to find ways to prevent them, the truth is that many of these injuries are already eminently avoidable.
So if you’ve been hurt in a fall on someone’s property, don’t overthink what happened: it’s quite likely that it was, in fact, basic negligence that caused those conditions.
The Rise of Falls
The rate of falls — and perhaps more importantly, fall-related deaths — has increased rapidly over the past couple of decades to the point that it is now on par with motor vehicle accidents and poisoning as a leading cause of unintentional deaths in the U.S., according to National Safety Council statistics.
A lot of that can be attributed to a steadily increasing population of older Americans, who are always at a far greater risk of falls due to problems with balance and weakened bones. That demographic has increased, while other populations have remained steady.
In fact, falls remain a consistent leading cause of serious injuries across the board. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (a division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), unintentional falls were the number one cause of nonfatal injury in 2015 across nearly all age groups, the one exception being the 15-24 age group.
Combining all ages, well over nine million in the U.S. were injured by unintentional slip and falls that year.
Clearly, as much as various organizations work to teach people about the dangers of falls, the problem persists. Why is that?
Preventable Accidents Aren’t Being Prevented
If you’ve been hurt in a slip and fall, especially if it was on the premises of a business, you may think you simply took an unlucky spill or were clumsy. Perhaps, in your case, that’s what happened. But the truth is, many businesses and their employees fail to reach the most adequate standards of safety, leaving you and other customers vulnerable.
Recent statistics from the CDC and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) claim that over 60 percent of same-level fall injuries — or when a person trips or falls on a level surface — involved services, wholesale, and retail industries. Restaurants and stores are, unsurprisingly, places with greater risk of falls. But you may still be surprised at how avoidable these falls are.
This past March, a verdict was reached where Target was ordered to pay $2.1 million to the victim of a slip and fall accident, as reported by The Legal Intelligencer.
The fall occurred in 2013, in Allegheny County, PA. The victim and her representation claim that Target employees went to take care of a spill and set up warning cones around the spill — and then proceeded to mop not only within the cones, but outside of them as well. The victim slipped outside of the warning area, tearing her hamstring and requiring surgery and rehabilitation. And it was all embarrassingly avoidable.
Stories like this and the Wisconsin motel are far more common than a freak accident. Floors are tended to carelessly, if at all. Preventative measures are not done when they should be. Obvious problems aren’t noticed, or are even actively ignored.
That’s an enormous problem, considering the ugly ramifications of a resulting injury. “Slip and fall,” as a phrase, barely scratches the surface of how damaging these accidents can be. Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries. Some are lucky enough to just have a mild bruise, but others who fall end up with fractures and broken bones — and the medical costs that come with treating these serious injuries.
Careless Conditions Can Occur Anywhere
These examples have focused primarily on businesses. Establishments in the service and retail industry have their unique risks for slip and falls that become quickly exacerbated when the people responsible for maintaining the properties fail to do so. But businesses are far from the only properties this happens to.
In the workplace, for example, falls are a major source of injuries, and a common reason for lost time at work. We like to think that construction sites and similar industries follow the necessary Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regulations to a tee, but that simply isn’t true. These falls are often caused by something as simple as an improperly maintained floor, or faulty equipment that employers are already aware is faulty.
The problem of falls also strikes close to home, and in fact, falls in the home are one of the leading causes of injury-related death in the U.S. In honor of National Safety Month, the National Safety Council sent out a list of helpful things to remember about preventing falls in your household. The common thread between most of these tips is how startlingly obvious they appear to be at first glance. Clean up spills and puddles. Keep drawers closed when not in use. Have non-slip mats in the bathroom.
But these are the tips that people need to be reminded of — the ones that are so simple you could forget them. Those, ultimately, are the most common ways people fall and hurt themselves.
Contact an Attorney if You’ve Been Hurt in a Fall
Remembering how easily careless conditions can occur is important for another reason, too. If you have been significantly injured in a fall at a restaurant, retail outlet, or someone else’s home, you may assume that there were other factors beyond obvious negligence, deterring you from trying to get the compensation you need for your injury.
But don’t be fooled. The simplest explanation can often be the correct explanation. And in many instances surrounding falls, people simply do not take care of their property well enough. When that happens, you could be owed more than you realize.
If you believe someone else’s carelessness caused your fall and subsequent injury, contact Morgan & Morgan today for a free evaluation of your case.