Slip and Injury falls are one of the biggest causes of unintentional injuries in the United States. According to National Safety Council (NSC), slip and fall accidents account for approximately 8.9 million visits to the emergency room each year and are the second-highest cause of unintentional death in homes and communities, resulting in more than 25,000 fatalities in 2009. Adults aged 55 and older are more prone to slip and fall accidents with people over the age of 65 four times as likely to die from a fall as those in any other age group.

There are things we can do to avoid slip and fall accidents and prevent them from happening on our property.

Common Fall Hazard Locations:

  • Ladders
  • Stairs
  • Raised areas without railings
  • Ramps
  • Cluttered hallways
  • Doorways
  • Heavy traffic areas
  • Uneven surfaces
  • Wet or slippery surfaces

Fall Prevention Tips for Property/Business Owners:

  • Never allow someone to stand on a chair, table or other surface on wheels
  • Store electrical, cable and phone cords away from traffic areas
  • Remove small throw rugs or use non-skid mats to keep them from slipping
  • Remove tripping hazards (paper, boxes, toys, clothes, shoes) from stairs and walkways
  • Repair damaged walkways and steps in a timely manner
  • Clean up spills immediately

We are all responsible to watch where we are going and should expect that there will be surface hazards from time to time. A property owner will not automatically be held responsible for your fall; if it is determined that an ordinary person would have expected the hazard to be there and avoid it then you may be deemed careless and have no case. Property owners are, however, obligated to keep their property free of obvious and unnecessary slip and fall hazards. A legal case could be decided against a property owner who is deemed neglectful of clearing hazards from his property. Each state has their own laws around slip and fall hazards.

Determining Liability for a Slip and Fall Injury

One of the following must be true for someone else to be responsible for your slip and fall injury:

  1. The property or business owner/family member or employee must have caused the spill, worn or torn spot, or other slippery or dangerous surface or item in the way.
  2. The property or business owner/family member or employee must have known of the dangerous surface but done nothing about it.
  3. The property or business owner/family member or employee should have known of the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person taking care of the property would have discovered and removed or repaired it.

Although the third option is the most commonly used, it is also the most ambiguous. Liability in these cases is often decided by common sense; a judge or jury decides whether the steps the owner or occupier took to keep the property safe were reasonable. For example, could a simple barrier have been created or warning given to prevent people from slipping or tripping? Was there time to mop up a spill?

What Is “Reasonable”?

To determine a property owner’s “reasonableness,” the law asks whether the owner made regular and thorough efforts to keep the property safe and clean.

Your Carelessness

A personal injury lawyer will assess whether your carelessness contributed to the accident. The rules of “comparative negligence” help measure your own reasonableness in going where you did, in the way you did, just before the accident happened.

If you or a loved one were injured in an accident, you have enough to deal with. Let an experienced accident attorney fight for the full compensation that you deserve. It is not uncommon to receive a settlement from the insurance company that is five to ten times bigger with the help of a lawyer. Call the caring accident attorneys at Tario & Associates, P.S. in Bellingham, WA today for a FREE consultation! We have been representing residents of Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and Snohomish County since 1979. You will pay nothing up front and no attorney fees at all unless we recover damages for you!

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