When public health issues are discussed, most people want to talk about problems like HIV/AIDS, heart disease, skin cancer, obesity, diabetes, and the other major illnesses and diseases that plague Americans. And while each of these health issues command a great deal of focus, there are other common causes of injury and death that don’t get nearly enough attention. Slip and fall accidents certainly fall into this category.
What is a Slip and Fall Accident?
As the name suggests, a slip and fall accident is an incident where an individual slips or trips over an object, substance, or impediment and sustains a minor or major injury – perhaps even leading to death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 million Americans suffer slip and fall injuries each year. More than 17,000 people – or roughly 325 people per week – die from these injuries. In fact, slip and fall incidents account for 15 percent of all job-related injuries and 12 to 15 percent of all workers’ comp claims.
The CDC categorizes falls into two basic categories: same-level falls and elevated falls: “Same-level falls are more common and therefore cause more injuries to more people, but elevated falls are the most serious and cause more severe injuries to a less number of people. Over 60 percent of all elevated falls are from a height of less than 10 feet.”
Not all slip and falls lead to serious injury or death. The CDC estimates that roughly 20-30 percent of victims suffer moderate bruises and/or minor fractures. However, many victims – particularly older individuals – aren’t so lucky. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are fairly common, as are broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and long-term medical complications.
When is a Business Liable?
Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere, but when they happen on the property of a business, the business may be held liable. According to David Resnick & Associations, PC, the property owner may be liable if:
- “He or she caused the unsafe condition, such as spilling liquid and not mopping it up;
- He or she knew about the dangerous condition but did not take steps to correct it;
- He or she should have known about the hazard because a reasonable person taking care of the property would have discovered and corrected the dangerous condition.”
Obviously there’s some room for interpretation within each of these conditions, but they provide a basic outline of liability. They also indicate to business owners – and property owners in general – the importance of being meticulous with safety.
How Can Businesses Prevent Slip and Fall Liability?
All it takes is one slip and fall incident and a business could find itself in a precarious situation where they’re eventually forced to close up shop. That’s how serious this issue is. Thankfully, a little planning on the front end can help business owners significantly lower the risk of slip and fall liability.
Here are a few of the specific steps that can/should be taken:
1. Good Maintenance
The best thing a business can do to prevent a slip and fall incident is to invest in good maintenance. When problems arise – such as cracked sidewalks, loose stair treads, potholes in a parking lot, or changes in floor height between rooms – maintenance should be addressed immediately.
2. Routine Checks
It’s a good idea for businesses to have managers and employees conduct routine checks at the beginning and end of each workday. By looking for things like wet spots, broken equipment, and light bulbs that need replacing, slip and fall incidents are much less likely to happen.
3. Comprehensive Insurance
Even with good maintenance and routine checks, a business can easily find itself in a situation where a slip and fall injury occurs on its premises. In situations like these, adequate insurance is a necessity.
As FreeAdvice.com explains, “A comprehensive general liability insurance policy should provide you with two very important assets for the cost of your premium: an insurance company defense attorney to protect your interests, and a fund from which the insurance company can settle the case or pay any damages awarded against you in a slip and fall trial.”
Making the World a Safer Place
Slip and fall accidents are much more common than most people realize. Not only do they frequently happen – affecting more than 1 million people annually – but they also have serious financial ramifications. By taking this issue seriously, businesses can do their part to make the world a safer place.