You don’t have to be clumsy or careless to experience a slip and fall accident. Anyone can slip and fall at any time. And any slip and fall can result in very serious injuries. If you are injured in a slip and fall on someone else’s property or at work, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries if you slipped and fell because of a hazardous condition that the owner of the property was aware of but failed to correct.
How Often Do Slip and Fall Accidents Occur?
Often, when someone slips and falls in a public place or on someone else’s property, the only injury they suffer is a bruised ego and, perhaps, a moment of embarrassment. But for millions of people every year, a slip and fall results in an emergency room visit and serious injury.
Approximately 25% of people over the age of 65 slip and fall each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 800,000 of those people remain hospitalized as a result of their injuries from their fall. And even though experiencing just one fall increases the likelihood of another fall by 50%, less than half of those people inform their doctor that they fell. Still, medical costs for people who fall can exceed $50 billion per year.
The reason medical costs associated with slip and falls are so high is because the injuries that commonly result from a slip and fall can be so severe, particularly for the elderly, who often are weaker, more fragile, and less able to brace their fall. A surprising number of falls have resulted in fatality. For elderly persons over age 65, falls are the leading cause of death. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), in 2020, 42,114 people died in falls either at home or at work. For millions of others, injuries from a fall can result in serious disability with long-term treatment required, which can impact their ability to work, stay mobile, live alone, care for themselves, or perform simple daily activities.
What Are the Most Common Types of Falls?
A majority of slip and fall accidents occur in the home or the workplace. In fact, approximately 75% of all falls happen at home or near the home, and half of all accidental deaths that occur in the home are the result of falls. Choking, drowning, and fire-related injuries occur less frequently than falls. Only poisoning causes more frequent injuries and deaths in the home.
The most common rooms in the house where people fall are the living room (31%) and bedroom (30%). Although about 97% of falls off of ladders occur in the home rather than in the workplace, generally, when someone slips and falls in the home, they slip on a level or wet surface, as opposed to falling from a height, such as from a ladder, chair, or stepping stool. Instead, more than 5,000 people are treated in emergency rooms every year as a result of injuries caused by tripping and falling on loose carpets and throw rugs within the home.
The type and severity of one’s injuries from a fall can depend on how one falls.
Slip and Falls
When someone “slips” on a wet or icy surface or attempts to walk on a severe downslope in a yard, they may have their feet slip out from under them, causing them to fall backwards. Backward falls can occur quickly and without warning, making it awkward and difficult to brace the fall with one’s arms or body. This type of fall is more likely to result in a serious back, neck, or head injury.
Trip and Falls
When someone “trips” and falls by stumbling over an object, such as a rug, toy, uneven pavement, or some foreign object on the ground, they may be more likely to fall forward. If they are able to brace the fall, they are likely to do so by extending their arms and breaking the fall with their hands. This type of fall more commonly results in injuries to the fingers, hands, wrist, arms, and shoulders. If they are not able to brace for a forward fall, they may strike their face or head, which can result in more severe injury.
Collapses or “Dead Falls”
Many people fall without significant momentum forward or backward. Instead, a person might simply buckle their knees and collapse or fall to their side. This can occur by:
- Fainting, blacking out, or losing consciousness
- Dizziness or “lightheadedness”
- Loss of balance
- Having weak legs
- Taking medication that makes you drowsy or dizzy
- Being intoxicated
When someone collapses, they may receive injuries to their knees, hips, shoulders, or head. Elderly persons who collapse or fall are particularly prone to hip fractures.
What Are the Most Common Slip and Fall Injuries?
Whether you experience a fall in your home, in a public place, or at work, a fall can result in almost any injury. According to the CDC, 1 out of every 5 falls results in some sort of serious injury, like a broken bone or traumatic head injury. But there are certain injuries that are more common just because of the nature of a fall. Here are some of the most common types of injuries that people suffer when they fall.
1. Broken Bones
You don’t have to fall from a significant height to fall hard enough to fracture a bone. The elderly, particularly, are susceptible to broken bones during a fall. As a person gets older, their bones become weaker and more fragile, and their stability becomes compromised. For the elderly, broken hips are common. The CDC reports that there are more than 300,000 elderly persons hospitalized every year for hip fractures. At least 95% of all hip fractures are sustained during a fall. Additionally, hip fractures often can lead to further complications or long-term disability. Even strong, young, healthy persons can break bones in a fall, however. The most common fractures in a fall are:
Any broken bone from a fall can be painful and may require an extended period of time to heal.
2. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
According to the CDC, falls are the most common cause of TBI. TBI may occur when a fall victim strikes their head directly on the ground or on another object, like a table or countertop. TBI also can occur without striking the head directly on the ground but simply by snapping the head sufficiently in a fall to cause trauma to the brain. Any injury to the brain is serious and requires immediate medical attention. But when there is not a direct impact to the head, the fall victim may not even know that they injured their brain until it is too late. This is why you should always seek medical attention after a serious fall, especially if you start to experience:
- Blurry vision
- Ringing in the ears
Any of these symptoms after a fall could mean that you have suffered some form of head or brain trauma, which could be anything from a mild concussion to a much more serious brain injury. If you fall and start feeling any of these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately, even if you did not hit your head directly.
3. Neck or Spinal Cord Injury
Even though you might fall without hitting your head or injuring your brain, a bad fall can result in neck or back injuries that can be just as serious. Injury to the neck can be painful and debilitating, and it can extend to the back and spinal cord if not treated properly. Any sort of injury involving the spinal cord could affect the nervous system and could be a catastrophic injury that permanently affects your life and your ability to perform daily activities.
Neck and spinal cord injuries often do not reveal themselves immediately. You may fall and injure yourself but not feel the effects of the injury until well after your fall, possibly even after several days. If at any time shortly after you fall you start to experience symptoms indicative of a neck or spinal cord injury, you should seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms might appear as:
- Intense pain
- Neck immobility (or limited mobility)
- Weakness in your limbs
- Numbness or tingling in your extremities
You might experience any of these symptoms as a result of any of the following injuries:
- Fractured or cracked vertebrae
- Pinched nerve
- Ruptured, herniated, or “slipped” disc
- Damaged muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the neck or around the spinal cord
All of these injuries can be serious and extremely painful. They can leave you incapacitated for an extended period of time. If you experience any of these symptoms after a fall, it is important to obtain medical attention right away so you can begin to treat these injuries quickly.
4. Joint Injuries
Falling does not always include just striking your head on the ground or fracturing a bone in your body. Often when you fall, you might twist your body and limbs so as to break your fall, brace for the impact, or prevent yourself from hitting your head. Sharp, sudden twists of any limbs or body parts could cause a strain on your joints and the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support them. This could include:
- Twisted or sprained ankles
- Sore or swollen wrists
- Torn muscles in the knee (MCL or ACL)
- Sprained or hyperextended elbows
- Dislocated shoulders or torn muscles (rotator cuff)
Simple sprains and strains might be minimal and, if they are treated quickly and properly (by icing and elevating), they may be only temporarily bruised or swollen. Such injuries may be merely inconvenient for a few days. But fractured bones, torn muscles or ligaments, and severe sprains can be painful, disabling, and long-term. To treat and heal a serious joint injury could require surgery and extended rehabilitation.
5. Superficial Injuries (Cuts, Scrapes, Lacerations)
In addition to any serious internal injuries you might suffer in a fall, depending on the nature of your fall and the type of surface you fall on, you may be very likely to receive cuts, scrapes, or lacerations to your:
If there is gravel, debris, or other hazardous material or sharp objects on the surface when you fall, you may tear, puncture, or do damage to your skin. Gravel or debris can penetrate your skin and have to be cleaned or removed. If you fall on a hard, rough surface, you may scrape or brush your skin on the surface, leaving what is often called “road rash.” Deep cuts or punctures could require stitches. “Road rash” can be painful and slow to heal, and often leaves permanent scars.
6. Facial Injuries
If you fall and are unable to break your impact with your arms or body, you could easily hit your head, which, in addition to a traumatic brain injury, may include injury to your face when you strike the ground or another object during your fall. This could result in:
- Cuts or abrasions to the face
- Split lips or chin
- Cracked or broken teeth
- Broken jaw
- Lacerated tongue (from biting on impact)
- Broken nose
- Eye injuries
All of these facial injuries can be serious, painful, and may take a long time to heal.
7. Chronic Pain
Although pain, itself, is just a symptom of a separate injury to a specific body part, which may include any of the injuries discussed above, falling is jolting to the body and can leave one feeling sore. Specific injuries, though treated, can still cause soreness or lingering pain. Some injuries may heal but may lead to ongoing soreness or pain associated with a related body part. Not all injuries heals, and even if they do, the victim may not return to full capacity and may require continued medical treatment or rehabilitation. The resulting chronic pain could last you weeks, months, years, or even a lifetime. And it can affect every daily activity you perform, including work, daily self-care, and activities with friends and family.
All of these injuries and symptoms may relate to damages that you are able to recover if they resulted from a fall that was not your fault. You should always document your medical records and take pictures of your injuries when they are fresh, as well as through the process of healing. Evidence of your condition and your medical records will be critical in your case if you are seeking compensation.
Your Fall May Not Be Your Fault! Contact a Kansas City Slip and Fall Attorney!
Everyone makes clumsy mistakes. Sometimes we don’t pay attention to where you are walking. Sometimes we attempt dangerous (or foolish) activities. Sometimes we simply lose our balance. Sometimes there are external factors against us, like the weather or our own physical conditions. All of these could cause a person to slip or trip and fall. Often, this is not anyone’s fault but our own.
Sometimes, however, you fall when it is not your fault. Sometimes it really is someone else’s fault. Sometimes you can be as careful and cautious as you can be, but someone else makes a mistake or negligently creates a hazard that causes you to have a fall. On these occasions, you can be compensated for your injuries.
If you have fallen on someone else’s property, or while you were on public or private property that was not your own, and have been injured, don’t just assume that it was your fault. Your slip and fall may have been caused by any number of conditions or environments for which someone else was responsible. If that person created a condition or environment that caused you to fall and become injured, that person should be financially responsible for your injuries and financial damages.