If you ever lost your footing, you know how scary those brief few seconds can be. The loss of control and the fear of injury are enough to get your heart racing. Near misses are no doubt unsettling. But actually falling brings on a completely different set of challenges personal injury lawyers see all the time.
Slip and fall accidents are among the most common causes of injury in the United States. They can happen anytime, any place, and in just an instant, cause significant damage.
Unfortunately, these accidents typically occur because of a property owner’s negligence. Someone failed to do their due diligence. If you are the victim of a slip and fall accident, the law may entitle you to financial compensation. For more information, contact an experienced slip and fall attorney.
Four Leading Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents fall in the realm of premises liability. Under the law, a property owner has a legal duty to maintain their land and structures in a way that limits the chance of injury to visitors and invited guests. If a visitor becomes injured, the property owner may hold financial responsibility.
According to the National Floor Safety Institute, nearly one million emergency room visits per year result from slip and fall accidents. Common causes of these injuries include:
As humans, most of us do not walk with our eyes on the ground. We walk head up, eyes forward, scanning a few feet ahead. When we go somewhere, it is normal to expect that we will be walking on level ground.
But the truth, uneven surfaces are one of the top causes of slip and fall accidents. When the surface unexpectedly lifts or dips, it can easily cause you to lose footing. If you are at a place of business, the property owner has a duty to fix the unsafe condition or warn of the sudden change. If they knew of the condition and failed to remedy it, they could be liable for damages.
Examples of uneven surfaces include:
- Loose carpet or tile
- Uncovered electrical cords
- Broken or uneven pavement
- Loose gravel
- Unmarked sidewalks
- Potholes or divots in public spaces
Wet floors can injure you. It can accelerate a fall and increase the severity of injuries. When a business or homeowner notices a spill, their response should be to clean it up as soon as possible. If they cannot, they need to place signs or safety cones warning of the fall potential.
Business owners often claim that they cannot prevent all spills or know their immediate existence. While this is true, at minimum, they should conduct regular safety checks to limit the chance of injury.
Reasons for wet flooring include:
- Leftover mop water
- Spilled beverages
- Oil spills
While a wet floor sign can warn visitors of slick surfaces, it may not absolve a business of financial liability. For questions, speak to an experienced slip and fall attorney.
When we visit a person’s home or a place of business, we expect it to be organized. At a minimum, items should have a place and be safely stored in that location. When an item is out of place, it can quickly become a fall hazard. If you are not paying attention or cannot see the threat, you may end up on the floor.
From a business standpoint, items that may create a hazard include:
- Chairs not pushed in
- Product sticking out from a shelf
- Boxes stored in public spaces
And though a large number of slip and fall accidents happen in public places of business, private property owners are also responsible for keeping their property free of hazards.
Items that can cause an accident include:
- Unkempt garden hoses
- Improperly stored bikes, scooters, or toys
- Yard tools such as shovels and rakes
Lack of Safety Equipment
In many cases, slip and fall accidents happen because the property owner failed to take appropriate safety measures. When a slip or trip hazard is unavoidable, the property owner has a duty to warn of the danger.
Examples of inadequate safety protection include:
- Broken or missing stair rails
- Unattended ladders or step stools
- Lack of warning signs or safety barriers
- Poor visibility, including insufficient lighting
The Dangers of Slip and Fall Accidents
For someone who has never suffered from a slip and fall accident, it can be easy to think of the incident as minor or even comical. But many accidents are anything but. Slip and fall accidents are serious and can cause severe personal injury. Common injuries include:
Traumatic Brain Injuries
According to the CDC, falls are the number one cause of traumatic brain injuries. They account for nearly half of all TBIs. You have seconds to react and brace for impact if you slip or trip. If you land on your head, the likelihood of injury is high.
Any injury to the head should be taken seriously. Every person is different, and there is no way of knowing how someone might respond to a traumatic brain injury.
Following a fall, understanding how to recognize a traumatic brain injury and knowing what to do may save your life.
TBI symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Mood changes
- Fatigue or difficulty staying awake
Please note that this list is not an all-inclusive accounting of the symptoms of a TBI. If you hit your head, experience any new or unusual symptoms, or have reason to suspect a TBI, contact your care provider right away. Then call a lawyer near you to find out if you can recover compensation for the pain and suffering your injuries caused you.
Johns Hopkins Medicine lists falls as one of the leading causes of bone fractures. In many cases, a break results from the force and the angle the person lands. According to Johns Hopkins, our bones are most vulnerable when twisted. When a person falls, they often have little control of how they land, leaving them susceptible to injury.
Broken bones are serious and require immediate treatment. Delaying treatment or attempting to put weight on the break can worsen your condition and lead to permanent mobility issues.
Most broken bones respond well to treatment. However, even with treatment, patients may experience pain or other symptoms long after the initial injury.
The vertebral discs help support the spinal column and provide a cushion between the vertebrae. These discs consist of a soft, gelatinous core and are surrounded by a thin layer of cartilage.
When the back sustains trauma, the vertebrae can put pressure on the discs. The discs can leak or rupture if this happens, causing a bulging or herniated disc.
When a bulging or herniated disc puts pressure on a nearby spinal nerve, it can cause pain, tingling, and numbness. While treatment options can help alleviate these symptoms, there is no cure for a ruptured disc.
Strains and Sprains
Despite our best efforts, most of us do not fall gracefully. Most falls end with an awkward landing. You could end up spraining your wrists if you land on your hands. If you trip on uneven ground, the odds of a sprained ankle or high.
Strains and sprains may seem like minor injuries. However, they can significantly interfere with your ability to get around or go to work. Additionally, they can cause significant pain and require further treatment.
Cuts and Abrasions
Depending on how you fell and where you landed, a fall can easily result in cuts, scratches, or bruises. Many times, these types of injuries are minor and require little treatment. However, this is not always the case.
Any open wound opens the body up to infection. The risk of infection increases if you fall outside or on a dirty floor. If you have an open wound, you must watch for signs of infection and seek appropriate medical treatment.
Signs to watch out for include:
- Foul odor
What to Do After a Slip and Fall Accident
The steps you take following a slip and fall accident can directly affect your rights and the outcome of your case.
While every case is different:
- Do not delay medical care: Following an accident, there are many reasons why someone might put off getting medical treatment. Cost, work, and other obligations are understandable concerns. However, it is always best to seek medical care as soon as possible. It shows that you take your health seriously, and prompt treatment can prevent later complications. If you are concerned about the cost of medical care, you need to talk to an experienced slip and fall accident attorney. Once you open a claim, your attorney may be able to set up an arrangement to delay payment until the conclusion of your case. In the interim, you can use your private health insurance the same way you would with any other injury.
- Keep a record of your costs: One of the primary objectives of a slip and fall injury case is to recover costs associated with your accident. This is why it is essential to keep proof of purchases. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications, medical supplies, bandages, ointments, braces, and other items that aid your treatment. You also need to keep a detailed record of who you see for medical care and any out-of-pocket visit costs.
- Watch what you say: Remember, the insurance company is looking for ways to get out of paying your claim. They can and will look into your background and try to get you to say something incriminating. You do not have to and should not provide a recorded statement to the insurance company. Additionally, you need to watch what you say to your friends and family. Do not discuss your case or injuries on social media, and watch out for any unusual friend requests. Typically, it is best to set all social media accounts to private until the conclusion of your case.
- Contact an experienced slip and fall attorney: When you make a claim against a property owner, the first thing they will try to do is deny liability. This means the burden of proof is on you. An experienced injury attorney can help you gather evidence and build a solid case to prove the cause of your injuries.
The Statute of Limitations for Slip and Fall Accidents
In Arizona, the statute of limitations for all personal injury matters, including slip and fall accidents, is two years. This means you must file paperwork with the court before the two-year mark if you intend to file a lawsuit.
The mistake many victims make is waiting too long to initiate a slip-and-fall case. While two years may seem like plenty of time, the longer you wait to initiate the claim, the more likely the insurance company is to question the validity of your case.
Further, it is always important to allow your attorney enough time to review your case and gather the necessary evidence. Complications can come up, and the last thing you want is to have to rush the case.
Take Control of Your Future. Act Now
Property owners have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of anyone visiting their home or business. When they fail, it can have devastating consequences. Following an injury, it is important to prioritize your well-being. This includes your health and financial security.
Serious injuries can require extensive medical care and recovery time. This is not something you should have to face alone. The law is designed to help protect victims against negligent actions. Do not be afraid to stand up for your rights. For more information or to learn more about the next steps, contact an experienced Phoenix personal injury lawyer.