Thousands of people every year are seriously injured in falling accidents, many resulting in permanent disability. While some falling accidents are unavoidable, other times the fault lays with a property owner or a business owner’s employees for failing to act to correct a known safety issue or perform regular maintenance. In these cases, a Columbia slip and fall lawyer can help an injured victim get the money they need to make a full recovery.
When a person slips or trips and falls on a floor, down a flight of stairs, or on a rough patch of sidewalk, we call these incidents “slip and fall” accidents. The injuries that result from these accidents are called slip and fall injuries. When slip and fall injuries are caused by the negligence of a property owner, that owner may be able to be held legally liable for those injuries. All property owners have a legal responsibility to make their properties safe for visitors. Failing to do so is grounds for a lawsuit.
If the building was not constructed to code, for example, the building owner, contractor, and/or architect may be liable for any injuries that result due to poor construction. If a visitor falls and slips on a set of apartment stairs that has a broken handrail, the complex owner may be able to be sued.
Slip and fall injury lawsuits can be very complicated. It often takes an experienced premises liability attorney to determine if there is a legal case arising out of the incident that caused the injuries.
How Common Are Slip and Fall Accidents?
Fall injuries and fatalities are a very common occurrence, according to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI). More than 20 percent of hospital emergency room visits annually are the result of a fall. This means that eight million patients are treated for fall-related injuries. More than one million of those individuals are treated specifically for a slip and fall accident.
The following are statistics presented by the NFSI regarding slip and fall accidents and the consequences:
- Fractures, one of the most serious injuries resulting from a fall, occur in five percent of all people who fall.
- Elderly individuals who fall are more likely to suffer from a hip fracture – an injury that leads to significant health problems and death for that age group.
- Falls account for 87 percent of all fractures among those 65 and older and are the second leading cause of brain injuries.
- Slip and falls are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims and the leading cause of occupational injury for workers over the age of 55.
- Half of all accidental deaths in the home are caused by a fall.
- Fall injuries are estimated to cost $13 to $14 million per year in the United States.
Where Do Slip and Fall Accidents Commonly Occur?
A slip and fall accident can happen almost anywhere, but there are certain locations and situations where there is a greater chance someone will fall. Many of the locations are public; however, falls are just as likely to happen on private property. The following locations are examples of common places these accidents occur:
- Hotels. The majority of falls in hotels occur while individuals are walking on a flat surface. There may be a torn carpet a patron could trip on. It’s also possible employees could forget to put out a caution sign on slippery surfaces during a rainstorm, and someone could slip on a puddle that should have been wiped up.
- Restaurants. When a server drops food or a beverage, it’s imperative to post a sign and clean up the mess right away. In the event this does not happen, the food or drink on the floor could easily cause an accident. Restaurant staff is also at risk if the kitchen isn’t kept clean and orderly. The average restaurant is likely to experience three to nine slip and fall incidents a year.
- Grocery Stores. A number of things may be spilled in a grocery store. If employees aren’t cognizant of debris on the floor, an unsuspecting shopper could unknowingly roll over the mess with their cart and experience a fall.
- Nursing Homes. Nearly 60 percent of long-term care facility residents slip and fall every year. It’s important for nursing home staff to monitor the conditions of the floors and ensure residents who need help moving receive it.
- Stairs. Stairs are one of the leading causes of falls on private property. Property owners are supposed to ensure their space is not hazardous to visitors. A broken step could easily cause someone to fall. Steps are also an issue at churches. If a worship center does not clean off their steps in the winter or does not have a ramp for individuals who struggle with stairs, a fall is a real possibility.
How Do Slip and Fall Accidents Happen?
Slip and fall injuries can result after any type of falling accident, but some hazards are more likely to result in serious injuries than others. Cracked or uneven sidewalks or slick pavement in parking lots is likely to cause a fall. Poor lighting and poorly maintained walkways are also likely to create hazards outside. In the event a storm damages personal property and loose roofing materials are on the ground, gutters are broken, or views are obstructed, visitors may be put at risk.
There are risks inside places, as well, that may result in a slip and fall accident. Torn carpeting, a lack of safety features like handrails or nonslip walking surfaces, poorly-stacked merchandise in a store, and defective elevators can cause a person serious and preventable physical harm.
As you can see, the reasons slip and fall accidents happen are almost always preventable. Because of this, victims have a right to seek compensation for what they’ve been through from the party that ignored the hazard.
What Injuries are Associated with Slip and Fall Accidents?
The most pressing consequence to deal with after a fall is the associated injuries. While some falls may only result in some minor pain and bruising, others can put victims in the hospital. The most common injuries related to slip and fall incidents include the following:
- Fractures. As mentioned above, broken bones are the most common result of a serious slip and fall. Fractures can be painful and vary greatly in severity. Treatment varies greatly. While some broken bones may only require a cast or sling, others could require surgery and physical therapy.
- Head Injuries. Even a minor head injury is a medical emergency. If you fall and hit your head, especially if you notice swelling, bleeding, or you’ve lost consciousness, you need to seek immediate treatment. While minor concussions are likely to clear up on their own over time, serious traumatic brain injuries can permanently alter a person’s ability to function.
- Spinal Cord Injuries. When the spinal cord is compressed or severed, the injury can be life-threatening. Once a person has sought treatment and is no longer in danger, they could suffer from temporary or permanent paralysis.
- Soft Tissue Injuries. These injuries aren’t outwardly visible, which can make them difficult to treat and prove in a lawsuit. Left untreated, however, soft tissue injuries can result in chronic pain.
How Are Slip and Fall Claims Handled in South Carolina?
Slip and fall lawsuits belong to an area of law called premises liability. Premises liability laws help ensure that business and property owners do everything they can to keep their properties safe and well-maintained.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else’s property in South Carolina, you and your injury attorney will need to prove the following points:
- That the hazardous condition existed
- That the hazardous condition directly caused your injury
- That the property owner was aware of the hazard or shouldhave known about the hazard and failed to warn visitors/patrons
Homeowners and business owners in South Carolina have a legal responsibility to not only keep their properties and businesses safe but to warn visitors or customers should a hazard exist. If a hazard exists and the owner doesn’t have the time or funding to fix it, they need to place adequate warning signs or block off the area until it can be fixed. Owners must also fix hazards within a reasonable amount of time. This period will be determined by the court when a slip and fall claim is filed.
If a store owner, for example, has knowledge that the floor is wet and slippery, they have a duty to warn customers until the floor is cleaned. If a homeowner has a broken sidewalk leading to the front door, they must place warning tape around the area or provide an alternate path until the walkway is fixed. If either situation is not fixed within a certain amount of time and no signs are posted, this may be grounds for a lawsuit if an injury occurs.
Property owners must also regularly inspect their properties for defects or hazards which may exist. If a property owner claims that they did not know about a broken stairwell, for instance, it may be decided by the court that the owner should have known about it given the time frame. That property owner may be able to be held liable for injuries because they should have inspected the property and consequently fixed the hazard.
Store owners must also take proper steps to ensure that merchandise displays are not a danger (falling merchandise) to the customers shopping in the store. Homeowners must keep all walkways and stairwells well-maintained, but they also must ensure that no debris is at risk for falling and injuring visitors. This includes roofs, porches, gutters, trees, and all types of structures and landscaping. Property owners are also responsible for clearing ice and snow from walkways after winter storms.
How Can Solomon Law Group Provide You With the Representation You Deserve?
Hiring an experienced slip and fall injury attorney who understands premises liability may make the difference between being fully compensated for injuries that were not your fault and not being compensated at all. Solomon Law Group evaluates and handles serious injury cases arising from incidents like slip and fall accidents, and we have the expertise your claim needs.
We can handle your case knowledgeably and compassionately. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch today.