Each year, thousands of people are injured in accidents that occur when premises are not properly maintained and managed. Slip-and-fall accidents are a leading cause of injury in the United States. “Slip and fall injury” or “trip and fall injury” is the generic term for an injury that occurs when someone slips, trips or falls as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else’s property. Of course there can be other potential hazards creating responsibilities as well. A property owner’s responsibility ranges from clearing the snow in the parking lot, to ensuring that there is a trained lifeguard on-duty at an apartment swimming pool.
Duty to Maintain a Safe Property
Property owners have a duty to use reasonable care when maintaining their premises, striving to ensure the safety of anyone using their property. If an owner discovers unsafe or dangerous conditions on their premises, they should take swift action to repair them, and warn visitors in the meantime. If not, the injured victim can pursue compensation through a premises liability lawsuit.
Landlords, employers, elevator companies, local governments, and mass transit authorities can all be responsible for injuries on property if they do not take proper precautions to protect visitors. In many cases a local, city, state or federal government may be at fault if the injury occurs on public property it controls.
Duty to Inspect
Not only does the property owner or landlord have a duty to correct hazards or warn people about them, they must also regularly inspect the property to stay on top of any unsafe conditions. The owner or occupier has a duty to repair, replace, correct, or give proper warning of any condition that could harm others. For example, store owners are responsible for regularly inspecting store aisles because of the danger of merchandise falling to the floor and creating a hazard for customers. The same store owner has a duty to inspect the aisles and walkways to ensure that no dangerous conditions exist that could lead to a fall. Failure to make these reasonable inspections may make the owner liable for any injuries caused by unaddressed hazards.
Types and Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents can occur in a variety of locations, including stores, schools, apartment buildings, libraries, and more. Some of the most common types of slip and fall accidents involve:
- Snow or ice left untreated or uncleared
- Wet or greasy substances on floors
- Uneven or broken sidewalks
- Poor or bad lighting of walkways or parking lots
- Construction sites with debris lying around or unmarked hazards
- Unrepaired potholes
- Inadequate or broken handrails, stairs or flooring
- Public swimming pools and other surfaces without adequate slip-resistant materials
Construction Site Accidents
Construction sites are areas particularly surrounded with slip, trip and fall hazards. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
- Over 230,000 workers in the United States sustained nonfatal injuries from slips, trips, and falls in a recent year, each resulting in one or more days away from work. Although some of these injuries were only temporarily disabling, others left workers permanently disabled.
- Most years slips, trips, and falls result in somewhere between 15 percent and 20 percent of all nonfatal workplace injuries, the highest frequency of injury of any single regulated activity.
- In 2011, 803 workers died as a result of workplace falls.
What Should I Do if I Am Injured in a Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you have been injured on someone else’s property, you should complete an accident report at the time of the incident, making note of what happened, who witnessed the accident and the conditions that caused the fall. Take a picture with your cell phone of the hazard.
If a report is not completed at the location or scene of the accident – or if the accident was not observed by others – take the time to write down your recollection of what happened as soon as you possibly can. Information you document immediately after the accident is by nature much more accurate than information gathered later on, when your memory is not as fresh.
Be sure to include information such as:
- Date and time the fall down accident occurred
- A description of the circumstances surrounding the accident, such as water or grease on the floor, and whether or not any warning signs were present notifying patrons of the hazard.
- Contact information for who was present at the time the accident occurred, and a written record of the comments made by those who witnessed the fall or helped afterwards
- If possible, take photos of the area as soon after the accident occurred as possible. Use your cell phone!
- If you were physically hurt, seek immediate medical attention. If you delay seeking treatment, the property owner may argue that it was not their negligence that caused your injury, but something else that occurred between the time of your accident and your visit to the doctor.
- Description of the lighting at or around the scene
- Weather conditions (if the accident occurred outdoors)
Taking pictures of the hazard and the scene of the accident can be crucial to a slip-and-fall injury claim. Usually, it is a store or business’s policy to require an accident report – it is not mandated by law. No matter what the store’s policy is, however, completing a timely accident report and taking pictures is the most beneficial for all involved parties.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident because of a property owner’s negligence in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington D.C., please contact the Law Offices of Stuart L. Plotnick today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced premises liability attorneys. We can help you obtain the compensation you need to fully recover from your injuries.