William W. Hurst
Law Office of William W. Hurst, LLC
50 S. Meridian St., Suite 600, Indianapolis, IN 46204
Over 540,000 Slip-Fall injuries, requiring hospital care, occur in in our country each year. These falls resulting in injuries count for more than 300,000 disabling injuries per year. One in three serious orthopedic injuries for seniors result in death, within one year of the accident and Slip-Falls account for over 20,000 fatalities each year. It is the second leading cause of accidental death and disability after automobile accidents. Accidentally slipping, tripping and falling is the number one cause of accidents in the businesses, hotels, and restaurants and 70% occur in flat and level surfaces. Accidental falls are the leading cause of death in the construction sites and the source of more than 57% of all disabling injuries. There are obvious social burdens related to this problem, including Worker’s Compensation claims of over $1.8 Billion a year. The total expense resulting from slip-fall injuries alone is a $100 million per day problem.
All businesses that are open to the public have an obligation to maintain safe conditions. This means they are required to inspect their premises, and to eliminate any slip and fall hazards before someone is injured. Businesses are not automatically liable for injuries sustained on their premises. If a person slips, trips and falls in a business, the person injured must present evidence that the hazard existed long enough that a reasonably prudent business owner or manager should have known about it, and did not place warning signs, cordoned off, or effectively remove the hazard the business may be liable for all injuries and damages that result.
These standards set forth a general requirement for walking working services as well as guarding, floor, wall, ladders, and scaffolding and the like. In Indiana and most every state there are certain elements that the person that slipped and fell was injured must prove. In the slip and fall case it must be shown that this condition caused the injury and the dangerous condition was the defendants fault. Certainly if it was the store owner or owner of the premises knew of the dangerous condition and failed to remedy it or provide warning to the victim the meeting of the victim is easily fulfilled. However in that a person must show that this hazardous condition existed on the premises and this condition while not known to the defendant should have been known and failed to adequately remedy it or warn then the owner of the premises may be liable.
For example, if a spill occurred, and shortly in time thereafter the victim falls a claim usually fails to disprove the timing of the spill and the fall was not close in time as often as possible The information needed to approve how long the condition remained unattended is offent; particulary if this information is sought several months
In the United States the grocery store industry spends 450 million dollars annually to defend slip and fall claims (NFSI). In supermarkets and restaurants slip, trip and falls are the number one cause of both employee and guest injuries. Since 1980 personal injury lawsuits have risen by more than 300% in the food service industry. The average restaurant has three to nine slip and fall accident each year (NFSI). The average cost of the business to defend a slip, trip and fall lawsuit is $50,000.00 (NFSI).
Most major businesses develop slip and/or trip and fall prevention plans which include walkway safety audits and slip tests to confirm that the floor surfaces meets OSHA and ADA Federal guidelines. Indeed many insurance carriers recognize a written slip or trip or fall prevention plan substantially reduces liability and offer discounts on business liability insurance and workman compensation insurance policies. The American with Disabilities Act offers a substantial tax credit to help fund needed repairs and alterations to eliminate slip, trip or fall hazards in the work place.
It is expected that slip, trip and fall accidents and lawsuits are expected to increase in the next few years as the age of the US “Baby Boomer” population increases. Seniors are more likely to experience slip, trip and falls and their injuries include hip fractures, spinal injury and even death.
The settlement value of slip, trip and fall accidents may be larger than one might think. For example, in 2008 a Pennsylvania medical student settled a slip and fall case for $18 million dollars for falling into a manhole cover. Where he fell 18 feet causing him to suffer a severe spinal injury. A Virginia woman was awarded $12.2 million in late 2007 when she slipped in a “puddle” caused by a leaking awning on a convenience store. This woman was left with permanent brain injuries. http://accident-law.freeadvice.com/slips_falls/slip-fall-lawsuits-on-the-rise.htm
Why are there so many falls? To understand why there are so many slip and falls is somewhat more complex than one might assume. Numerous studies have been conducted to understand the complex dynamics involved in a simple slip, trip and fall. For an in depth discussion of the relationship of human interaction and surface upon which people stand, walk, or climb see an in depth article at lawguru.com.http://www.safety-engineer.com/complex.htm. This article discusses the human element in slips and falls as well as the types of falls and causes thereof. Especially in a slip and fall case it is important to see an experienced attorney so that evidence such as store videos, witnesses and photos can be preserved. As time passes evidence becomes very difficult and diminishes the victim’s chance for recovery.
OSHA has created standards for walking/working services that apply to all places in employment except where there is only domestic, mining, or agriculture work being preformed. http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/walkingworkingsurfaces/index.htmlStatistics show that the majority of falls happen on level surfaces and the remaining 40% are falls from height such as falls from an elevation, ladders, stairs and the like. Slips occur where there is too little traction between the foot wear and the walking surface. Trips occur when the foot slides or strikes an object and you lose balance and fall. Good housekeeping and quality walking surfaces as well as selection of the proper foot wear and appropriate pace of walking are critical for preventing slip, trip and fall accidents. You can reduce your risk of slipping by taking your time and paying attention to where you are going, adjusting your stride and pace that is suitable for the surface, walking with your feet pointing slightly outward and make wide turns at corners. You can reduce the risk of tripping by having lights on surfaces that provide sufficient light for the task, using a flashlight in a dark room, insuring the things you carry or push will not prevent you from seeing obstruction, spills, etc. OSHA has a number of programs and courses on preventing falls, slips, and trips.
Liberty Mutual has published a number of publications regarding slips, trips, and falls evaluating the many factors that cause and contribute to these accidents.
For more information on slips, trips and falls See Occupational Health and safety administration WWW.cpsc.gov
The NASD – National AG Safety Database University of Florida states that in 1999 over 17,000 Americans died as a result of falls. The NASD states there are specific behaviours that can lead to slips trips and falls. Walking to fast or running and most force is exerted when the heel strikes the ground but when fast walking or running one lands harder on the heel of the front foot and pushes harder off the sole of the rear thus a greater friction is required to prevent slips and falls. Rapid changes in direction contribute to falls, distraction, which is not watching where one is going and or carrying materials that obstruct your view. It is clear that less frequent elevated levels result in the most severe injuries. Indeed 17% of all serious injuries are from elevated levels, only 8% of serious injuries are from the same level falls. Http://www.nasdonline.org/document/208/d000006/preventing-injuries-slips-trips-n-falls.html
In January 2011 OSHA presented a “slip, trip and fall” prevention suggestions in their article released “Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention for Healthcare Workers”. In the article OSHA reports the rate of lost work day injuries from the same level slips, trips, and falls at the hospital was 38.2 per 10,000 employees. Figure that is 90% higher than the average rate for all other private industries combined. Researchers analyzed that workman’s compensation injuries claims for acute care hospitals analyzed workers compensation injuries and found that slips, trips, and falls most commonly resulted in injuries to the lower extremities, knees, ankles, and feet made up of 44.9% of the cases and the nature of most injuries was often sprains and strains – to the back and neck, dislocations and tears representing 48.3% of the cases.
The National Floor Safety Institute http://www.nfsi.org has developed standards for slip, trip and fall prevention. These safety standards are intended to provide preventable measures in all manner of pedestrian ambulatory safety in regards to slip, trip and falls and is titled “B101Safety Requirements for Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention”.
Purdue University Indiana has done an intensive study regarding slip, trip, and fall injuries. Indeed they determined that slip, trip, and falls are the leading cause of occupational injuries at Purdue University. Their studies have determined that surface conditions are the biggest contributing factor. The slightest differences in walking surfaces even as minor as 3/8” may create a slip or trip fall hazard. 50% of the causes of slip, trip or fall injuries is the flooring but the second most contributing factor is the foot wear of the victim. www.purdueeducation/rem/injury/stf.htm
Don’t be a Victim! If you are injured because someone else did not maintain their property you should contact an experienced lawyer in dealing with these issues. William “Bill” Hurst represented hundreds of clients who have been hurt by others. To speak with “Bill” call 1-800-636-0808 for a free consultation. See our website at www.https://billhurst.com/m .
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