According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more women will suffer slip and fall accidents than men, although when it comes to job-related slip and fall fatalities, men account for 11 percent and women for 5 percent. Eight million annual ER visits are the result of a fall, although some of these falls are falls from a height rather than a slip and fall. Although slip and falls are not the primary cause of fatal on-the-job injuries, they do represent the number one cause of lost work days and are the leading cause of workers’ comp claims.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission determined that as many as two million fall injuries per year are directly related to floors and flooring materials. The elderly are at a particular risk of slip and fall injuries—one out of every three persons over the age of 65 will fall, with half of those being repeat fallers. In fact, for those between the ages of 65 and 84, falls are the second-leading cause of injury-related death, and for those over the age of 84, falls are the primary cause of injury-related death.
Slip and Falls in a Public Place
The public is entitled to be warned of an existing hazard when they walk into a public area. These hazards could include wet or slippery floors, lack of lighting or poor lighting, items in the walk area, or a number of other hazards. When a person slips on a floor and lands on a fleshy part of the body, the injuries are likely to be painful, but less severe than when they strike their head or a bone on the hard surface. In some cases, even what appears to be a relatively minor slip and fall can result in extensive injuries which, in turn, result in significant medical expenses and possibly even an inability to return to work.
Factors in a Slip and Fall Injury
As noted, there are a number of factors which can cause a slip and fall injury, including the following:
- Any spilled liquid which should reasonably have been cleaned, or marked with a hazard sign;
- Items stacked to dangerous heights in a store;
- Loose or broken steps;
- Obstacles in walkways which should have reasonably been removed;
- Lack of hazard signs in such areas as rain or snow-soaked entrances;
- Flooring surfaces which are not level or uneven surfaces;
- Extension cords in a walkway;
- Staircases which are overly narrow or are not well-lit;
- Unsecured rugs;
- Significant differences in floor heights without benefit of warning signs or
- Freshly mopped flooring with no hazard sign.
Where Do Slip and Fall Injuries Occur?
Slip and fall injuries occur in the home, in the workplace, and in public areas. Some of the primary places slip and falls occur in public areas include:
- Grocery stores;
- Public restrooms;
- Areas surrounding swimming pools;
- Construction areas;
- Escalators or moving sidewalks;
- Stationary sidewalks, and
Liability Following a Slip and Fall
No matter where your slip and fall injury occurred, then the owner of the property could be held liable if there is negligence involved. A hazard which is reasonably known of, yet one in which no sign was posted, is clear negligence. Property owners must be both vigilant and responsible regarding slip and fall hazards and must exhibit reasonable care in these situations. What exactly is reasonable care?
As just one example, suppose a shopper spills a soda on the floor of a grocery store. One or more employees pass by the spillover a significant amount of time, yet no one bothers to clean up the soda spill or even place a hazard sign by the spill. An unsuspecting shopper comes around the corner, steps into the liquid and suffers a fall. In this instance, reasonable care was not taken, and the owner of the property is liable.
On the other hand, if a shopper spills a soda then seconds later another shopper slips and falls in the liquid, the owner is much less likely to be held liable, because there was no knowledge of the spill, therefore no time to clean it up or place a hazard sign. An uneven walkway, which has been that way for some time and causes a slip and fall means no reasonable care was taken to protect the public, therefore the owner is liable. The same would apply for an unusually narrow or steep staircase or items which were stacked to an unreasonable height.
In short, for a property owner to be deemed liable for a slip and fall the owner or the owner’s employee must have either 1) caused the spill, slippery or dangerous surface or item underfoot; 2) known of the dangerous issue but failed to correct it, or 3) known of the dangerous issue because a “reasonable” person would have discovered the issue and subsequently removed or repaired it.
The “should have known” part of the equation can also be less than clear-cut because “should have known” is generally based on common sense, and common sense is very subjective. A judge and jury will determine whether the owner of the property reasonably should have known about the dangerous issue, and, if so, took steps to keep the public safe from the hazard.
Slip and falls may also contain another element, which is whether the carelessness of the victim contributed to the accident. In other words, if you were clearly able to see a spilled liquid on the floor of the grocery store but made the decision to walk through the liquid to get to an item you wanted, then your carelessness might have contributed to the accident. In the same vein, if you ignored hazard cones and signage, were using your phone instead of paying attention to where you were walking, were walking in an area where visitors generally are not allowed or were even wearing inappropriate footwear, you could be held at least partially responsible for the slip and fall. This means any damage award you receive could be reduced according to your percentage of fault.
Missouri Slip and Fall Statutes of Limitation
The statute of limitations is a law which puts a specific time limit on the right to bring a lawsuit in civil court. Under Missouri law, any lawsuit for injury to the person or rights of another must be filed within five years of the date of the underlying incident. This means a slip and fall lawsuit must be filed against the property owner within five years of the date of your accident, however, it is always better to file a claim as quickly as possible following an accident.
How Finney Injury Law Can Help Those Who Have Suffered a Slip and Fall
When an attorney from Finney Injury Law first meets with you following a slip and fall accident, we will thoroughly assess the circumstances of the accident to determine whether your case is viable, then will clearly lay out your options. If you choose to file a lawsuit against the owner of the property, we will begin to gather evidence on your behalf to prove the owner’s negligence, then show this negligence was directly responsible for your slip and fall accident and subsequent injuries. We will review video surveillance in order to assess how long the hazard condition existed, then will obtain your accident report and question employees and witnesses. We understand that key pieces of evidence can be lost as time passes, therefore it is extremely important that you contact the Finney Injury Law as quickly as possible after your slip and fall accident.