Second only to motor vehicle accidents, slips, trips, and falls are the most common accidents leading to personal injury. Slip and falls can happen to anyone anywhere, which is what makes them so frustrating. In fact, according to the New York Times, the number of people over 65 who died after a fall reached nearly 24,000 in 2012 – almost double the number 10 years earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, more than 2.4 million people over 65 were treated in emergency departments for injuries relating to falls in 2012 alone, an increase of 50 percent over a decade. Altogether, in the decade from 2002-2012, more than 200,000 Americans over 65 died after falls.
To clarify, a slip occurs when there is too little traction or friction between the shoe and walking surface. A trip occurs when a person’s foot comes into contact with an object in their way or drops to a lower level unexpectedly, causing them to be thrown off balance.
A property owner or occupier can be liable for a person’s injuries resulting from falls if the owner or occupier was negligent. Examples of negligent conduct might include:
- Failing to provide adequate warnings, such as signs, that the floor is being cleaned, waxed, or polished, and is still wet; failing to close off an area that is wet
- Cleaning the floor in a negligent manner, such as mopping at a busy time, using excessive amounts of soap and allowing the floor to remain wet for an unreasonable period of time after cleaning is finished
- Failing to clean up spilled food, liquid or other foreign substances, or to post a warning within a reasonable amount of time after being notified of the spill by a customer or employee
- Failing to keep floor surfaces in a reasonably safe condition, such as loose floor tiles, torn carpet or splinters sticking up
- Failing to correct conditions on stairways, such as broken handrails, worn steps, or inadequate lighting, that could cause injury if the property owner knew or should have known about them
- Failing to correct defectively designed parking lots, speedbumps, or parking space stoppers
Generally, to prove liability and hold someone legally responsible for your injuries, you must prove that either:
- The owner of the premises or an employee caused the slippery or dangerous condition;
- The owner of the premises or employee knew of the danger condition, but did nothing about it; or
- The owner of the premises or an employee should have known of the dangerous condition because a “reasonable” person taking care of the property would have repaired it.
In terms of liability, the third situation is the most common, but also the most difficult, because of the phrase “should have known.” Liability in these cases is determined on a case by case basis where a judge or jury will determine whether the owner of the property was careful by deciding if the steps they took to keep the property safe were reasonable.
If you or a loved one is injured in a trip and fall, it is extremely important to contact an experienced attorney to obtain compensation on your behalf. Should another party be found liable for your injuries, you may be entitled to payment for your past and future medical expenses, emotional and psychological suffering, as well as loss of income and earning capacity. For example, if you are injured as a result of a third party’s negligence, are no longer able to work in the same occupation as you were prior the injury, and can only take a lower paying position, then you are entitled to recover for your loss of earning capacity.
Katy Shoemaker is an associate trial attorney at Kramer Holcomb Sheik LLP. In just under two years, she has worked on numerous cases involving trip and fall accidents, auto-accident cases, dog bites, premises-liability cases, and wrongful death. Contact her via email at: [email protected]