Slips, trips, and falls send millions of Americans to hospitals every year. While slip and fall injuries are among the easiest to prevent, they are a leading cause of injuries for workers and the elderly. Every day, the average person takes between 5,000 and 7,000 steps which creates ample opportunity for a slip, trip, or fall to occur.
The Damage Slips and Falls can Cause
Slips, trips, and falls can cause broken bones, especially to an individual’s wrists, arms, ankles, and hips. Fractures are the most common injury and occur in 5% of people who fall. Slips, trips, and falls may also cause head injuries including contusions and concussions. Slip and fall injuries can also cause significant knee injuries. These can include fractures to the kneecap, sprains of the ligaments, tears in the meniscus, or damage to the ACL.
These injuries can be especially painful and can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life. They can force an individual to take time off work, delay engaging in favorite hobbies, and have a considerable impact on an individual’s finances as they pursue medical treatment to correct the damage. In fact, it is estimated that the cost of treating a slip and fall injury averages $22,800. However, if an individual is older and the treatment required is more extensive, this cost can increase considerably when the cost of long-term care are factored into the equation.
OSHA Steps Up Enforcement
In 2015, OSHA issued more than 6,000 citations to businesses that failed to meet basic fall protection standards. For the past five years, failures related to fall protection standards have been the leading cause of citations issued by the agency. The agency has stepped up enforcement following reports by the Department of Labor which showed that the number of slip and fall accidents is reaching critical levels.
For instance, from 2013 to 2014, there was a 9% increase in fatalities caused by these types of accidents. In 2014, the DoL recorded 793 fatal slip, trip, and fall accidents. Most seriously affected by the increase were construction workers who suffered 349 fatalities. It’s a statistic that shows roughly 1/2 of all work-related slip and fall fatalities are suffered by construction workers. Each year, treating work-related slip and fall injuries costs nearly $6.7 billion. In Illinois, a personal injury lawyer can hold property owners and businesses liable for failing to maintain their property. Whether it is a construction site, a restaurant, grocery store, healthcare facility, etc., these entities are responsible for protecting their workers and the general public from slip and fall risks. This means removing snow/ice, maintaining sidewalks/walkways, and cleaning up debris that may cause an individual to lose their footing.
The Elderly are Especially at Risk
It is estimated that up to 25% of people aged 65 or older will experience a serious fall each year. According to the CDC, nearly 2.8 million elderly Americans are treated in emergency rooms every year for fall-related injuries. Of these, nearly 800,000 are hospitalized to treat head or hip injuries. Moreover, 50% of those who suffer hip fractures are unable to return home following their injury. Even under nursing home car, it is estimated that 60% of these individuals will suffer another slip and fall.
It is estimated that just the direct medical cost of treating these injuries exceeds $31 per year. This makes slip and fall injuries among the most costly medical expenses faced by American seniors. These falls can be especially deadly to seniors. Of all deaths associated with falls, nearly 60% are experienced by individuals who are over 75-years old.
Medical Conditions can Increase the Risk of Slips and Falls
Individuals are at greater risk of experiencing a slip and fall accident if they suffer from lower body weakness or have difficulties in walking or maintaining balance. Slips and falls often occur to people who live with a Vitamin D deficiency, have poor vision, and those who use medicines such as tranquilizers, sedatives, and some antidepressants.
Establishing Fault in Slip and Fall Accidents
Establishing fault in a slip and fall accident requires showing that negligent actions led to the creation of a dangerous situation that could lead to a slip and fall accident. This requires showing that the owner/employee of a business or residence created a slippery or dangerous surface. Examples of this would be failing to mop a wet floor, failing to repair loose flooring materials, or failing to remove ice/snow following a storm.
Other methods of establishing fault include showing that the owner/employee knew about the danger but did nothing to correct it. Such examples would be neglected maintenance of the property, not shoveling a sidewalk following a snowstorm, or not repairing sidewalk faults that have created an uneven walking surface.