Slip and fall accidents occur every day. Anybody can become victim to a slip and fall accident, including the elderly, young, healthy, and infirmed. The resulting injuries may vary from bruises or broken bones to serious head trauma. Someone who is perfectly healthy and mobile may have a slip and fall accident and suddenly face years of physical pain, mental anguish, and financial difficulties.
Slip and fall accidents also can occur anywhere. The location of the slip and fall may be somewhere the injured person is familiar with and experiences on a daily basis or a place where the victim has never been before. And although an injury from a slip and fall can arise from just about any situation, many injuries can be prevented when appropriate precautions are taken by both the property owner and the patron or visitor who is present on the owner’s property.
Whether you are a home or business owner or a patron visiting these places, it is important to recognize common causes of slip and fall accidents and how they can be avoided.
What Is a Slip and Fall Accident?
Slip and fall accidents are precisely what they describe—an event during which someone slips and falls down, for any reason, and suffers some injury as a result. A legal action may commence if the injured person is lawfully on another’s property when the slip and fall occurs.
There are two categories of persons who are legally recognized as lawfully on another person’s property:
- An invitee. An “invitee” is a person who is either invited to enter the property for a reason connected with the business dealings of the landowner or is present for a specific purpose for which the property is held open to the public.
- A licensee. A “licensee” is someone who is welcomed on to the property as a social guest. Note that this does not include trespassers—those who are on the property without permission or any legal right. Therefore, their presence effectively bars any liability of a property owner for any injury the trespasser may sustain while on the property.
If the injured person is an employee who was at work at the time of the fall, they may need to file a different claim depending on the employee contract and the state’s worker’s compensation laws.
Whether you are an invitee or a licensee, a slip and fall can occur at any public place, including:
- Restaurants and bars
- Public roads and sidewalks
- Movie theatres
- Schools and universities
- Public pools
- Amusement/Water parks
- Sport and entertainment venues
- Parking lots and parking garages
Alternatively, a slip and fall also may occur on private property, such as:
- A private home
- Private swimming pools
- Privately-owned land or real estate
Essentially, a slip and fall claim can arise anywhere, at any time. Therefore, it is helpful to know how a slip and fall accidents commonly occur.
What Are Some Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents?
A critical step in preventing slip and fall accidents is understanding what frequently causes them. These incidents typically arise from a property owner’s failure to maintain their property or failure to warn others of potential dangers, including:
- Hazzardous areas. Hazzardous areas on a piece of property that are likely to lead to a slip and fall accident may include:
- Wet floors. Slippery floors increase the danger for falls, especially in stores where floors are made of smooth, waxed tile.
- Uneven surfaces. Concrete with large cracks, parking lots with potholes, and floors with loose boards or freestanding rugs and mats often increase the risk of harm to the public.
- Unfastened cords and wires. Pedestrians walking in areas exposed with loose or unfastened cables and wires can easily trip over these dangerous items and suffer injury.
- Cluttered walkways. Items left blocking floors and walkways tend to cause pedestrians to maneuver in order to bypass the area. This may increase the risk of a trip and fall that results in injury.
- Inclement weather. Snow, sleet, rain, and ice can create dangerous conditions that increase the risk of falls on the outside areas of businesses and homes.
- Building structure or conditions. Often, the condition of a structure may increase the risk of injury to visitors. Such dangerous conditions might include:
- Inadequate Lighting. Structures with dark or poorly-lit rooms are more difficult to navigate safely and can make it difficult to avoid a fall.
- Damaged supportive handrails and banisters. When someone relies on a broken supportive structure to help maintain their balance, injuries are likely to occur when someone places their body weight against the broken object for support.
In addition to dangerous or hazardous conditions existing on the property, slip and fall accidents may also occur by some fault of the injured person. Conduct by visitors that may result in a slip and fall accident involve:
- Improper footwear. Shoes that fit incorrectly or have inadequate traction with the ground may provide a challenge to pedestrians walking in unfamiliar areas.
- Distracted navigation. Talking with other people, using a cellphone, and simply not paying attention can cause someone to lose focus on where they are walking and may result in a slip and fall that results in injury.
- Excessive focus on surroundings. By centering attention on the things around them, visitors may be sufficiently distracted to disregard the walking conditions in front of them and lose their footing. For example, shoppers looking at the groceries on the shelves or patrons observing the surrounding scenery may be more susceptible to a slip and fall resulting in injury.
- Rushing from one place to another. Swift movements and hurried steps increase the risk of a fall by someone trying to get to their next destination without taking proper care for their safety.
A slip and fall can be prevented when proper precautions are recognized and taken. When reasonable and appropriate safeguards are applied at the places described above, many slip and fall accidents can be completely avoided.
How Can Slip and Fall Accidents Be Avoided?
Property owners can help visitors to avoid unnecessary slip and fall accidents by:
- Posting warnings. If floors are being cleaned or waxed and potential danger is posed by the conditions that result, posting warnings such as “Caution: Wet Floor” or “Slippery, Watch Step” may notify pedestrians in the area to take caution or avoid the area altogether.
- Fixing defects. If a property owner is aware of existing defects in the floor, such as cracks or uneven walking surfaces, the owner should fix the condition in the floor or provide warning of the condition to pedestrians.
- Cleaning. Owners should clean spills on walking surfaces as soon as they occur.
- Making routine inspections. Especially when patrons are occupying the property, property owners should make routine inspections to check for hazardous conditions that may increase the risk of a slip and fall.
- Addressing weather conditions. Owners should shovel snow and lay salt on all icy areas where pedestrians may walk.
- Installing proper lighting. Non-hazardous areas that are otherwise safe may become hazardous with improper lighting.
- Educating employees and household members. Property owners should train employees and household members how to identify potentially dangerous conditions and how to correct them or warn patrons and visitors about them.
Likewise, patrons and visitors can minimize the risk of slip and fall accidents in public or private places by:
- Limiting distractions
- Wearing safe and secure attire for the existing conditions
- Slowing down
- Being mindful of and adhering to warnings and safety signs
Even if all property owners, patrons, and visitors take all precautions to avoid a slip and fall accident, such accidents nevertheless will occur. If you are involved in this kind of accident, whether you are the injured party or the property owner, you should seek legal representation right away. Acquiring an experienced slip-and-fall attorney will provide you with the help you need to navigate through the complex and time-sensitive negotiations and legal proceedings that are likely to follow.
How Is a Slip and Fall Case Proven?
A slip and fall accident may occur as a result of negligence by the person in control of the property. To prove another’s negligence, a plaintiff (the person who was injured in the accident and who initiates a lawsuit) must show four things:
- The property owner had a duty to the injured person
- The property owner breached their duty
- The property-owner’s breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s harm
- The plaintiff suffered actual damages
When a property owner welcomes invitees or licensees onto their property, that property owner is burdened with a duty owed to those guests to provide safe conditions. This obligation is standard. The more difficult elements to prove are that the owner breached their duty by an act or omission that resulted in damages. The plaintiff must prove all four elements of negligence in order to be compensated for their injuries.
What Damages May I Recover for My Slip and Fall Injuries?
If a plaintiff proves that the property owner was negligent, the plaintiff may recover expenses resulting from their injuries. These expenses may include:
- Medical bills
- Rehabilitation costs, including physical therapy or counseling
- Lost wages from missed work
- Pain and suffering
Slip-and-fall lawsuits can be lengthy and costly proceedings for all parties involved. These claims are avoidable, however, by property owners keeping floors free from dangers and obstacles and pedestrians remaining alert while walking in these areas.
Have You Experienced a Personal Injury in Kansas City?
If you've experienced a Kansas City personal injury, you should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.