Most slip and fall accidents are preventable. Property owners are obligated to maintain their parking lot in a way that avoids injury. A slip and fall accident can result in severe (and expensive) bodily injury.
From a legal standpoint, the financial burdens of an accident belong to the person liable for the casualty. The responsibility for maintaining a hazard-free property can belong to the individual or entity that owns, rents, occupy, or controls the property.
An injured victim may have a right to recover damages when a severe injury happens due to this lack of responsibility—filing a lawsuit can frequently be a means of financial recovery. Because an insurance company usually pays compensation claims, commercial properties almost always have larger policy limits than individual homeowners.
Understanding the cause of slip and fall accidents and how and where they are likely to happen is helpful. The aspects surrounding an accident's cause can determine the whole nature of a case and can even affect the value of an eventual settlement.
First and foremost, in any injury, accident victims should seek immediate medical attention or evaluation for apparent injuries. Because not all physical dangers are present at the scene of an accident, victims should follow up with their physician. It is essential to report the accident to the property owner (and to law enforcement if necessary) as soon as possible.
Common Causes of Slip and Fall Accidents
Falls are a leading cause of severe injuries and deaths, and property owners can prevent most of them.
Here is a list of some hazardous conditions most likely to cause someone to fall.
- Unsafe or broken furniture
- Unstable or missing railings
- Failure to put up warning signs about known hazards—like slippery floors, or icy surfaces
- Failure to rope off renovation areas
- Obstacles on the floor in aisles or walkways
- Potholes in parking lots.
- Plumbing or roofing leaks
- Loose or worn carpets
- Liquid spills
- Uneven floors and poor construction
- Inadequate staff training
- Uncovered cables and cords
- Gravel or other debris
- Poor lighting
- A lack of security
- Poor housekeeping
Common Slip and Fall Accident Injuries
Over 800,000 patients are hospitalized yearly because of a fall, and according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury. Some severe injuries caused by a slip, fall, or trip include:
According to the Mayo Clinic, a hip fracture can frequently render a victim bedridden for an extended period.
This immobility may result in complications such as:
- Blood clots in the legs or lungs
- Pressure ulcers
- Loss of muscle mass
Hip fractures often require surgery and sometimes a hip replacement. A person who suffers a hip fracture may be unable to perform daily life activities and may need modifications to their home.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Head Injuries can range from minor contusions (bruising) to concussions and severe trauma.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a significant life-altering problem with potentially devastating consequences such as:
- Memory loss
- Visual changes
- Balance problems
- Reduced language skills
- Mood swings
- Sleep disorders
- Cognitive deficits
- Problems with motor skills
- Altered behavior
- Permanent disability
- Psychiatric problems
- Reduced life expectancy
The Brain Trauma Foundation reports that falls cause 28 percent of brain injuries—50,000 result in death, and over 80,000 cause permanent disability.
The financial costs of medical treatment and care for a victim of a traumatic brain injury patient are staggering. Some patients may need 24 hours of supervision—assisted living facilities, skilled nursing homes, or an in-home caregiver. In addition, families are faced with hospital emergency room and medication costs. Physical and vocational therapy is also usually a part of the recovery plan. The lifetime expenses of a TBI patient's treatment can easily range upwards of $3 million.
Back and spinal cord injuries
The impact on the body in a slip and fall accident can lead to:
- Temporary or permanent paralysis
- Chronic pain
- Neurologic damage
- Sensory impairment
- Herniated discs
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of voluntary muscle movement in the chest, arms, or legs
- Breathing problems
- Loss of feeling in the chest, arms, or legs
- Loss of bowel and bladder function
Long-term complications of a spinal cord injury may include:
- Inability to regulate blood pressure or body temperature.
- Increased risk of heart or lung problems.
- Spasticity, joint contracture.
- Sexual dysfunction.
Going from able-bodied to disabled is challenging physically, emotionally, and financially. Victims of a spinal cord injury may not be able to return to their chosen profession—this can lead to lost wages and earning power. When someone else's negligence results in an accident victim losing the ability to perform the usual daily activities they were used to. A personal injury lawyer may be instrumental in a family's recovery process.
Severe injuries from a slip and fall accident can leave a victim bedridden or sedentary for an extended period, making them highly susceptible to developing a blood clot. This can be fatal if a clot goes unnoticed and travels to the heart, lungs, or brain.
Compensation Is Possible for Victims of a Slip and Fall Accident
An experienced lawyer can assist a slip and fall accident victim recover compensation for:
- Medical expenses: Ambulance services, emergency room charges, doctors visits, surgical fees, inpatient hospital stays, lab work, medication costs, x-rays, physical and occupational therapy
- Lost income: Wages, salary, raises, bonuses, or benefits lost due to the accident
- Diminished earning capacity: A victim may not be able to return to their chosen profession
These items have a definitive dollar value—ones that can be validated by receipts, bills for services, and payroll information. In a slip and fall accident, non-financial damages are also possible. A lawyer may be able to help an accident victim recover financially from having to deal with pain and suffering, emotional distress, fear, anxiety, depression, loss of enjoyment in living, loss of consortium, shock, sexual dysfunction, social isolation, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Slip and Fall Accidents Can Happen Anywhere
Although most cases settle, slip and fall accidents are among the most common types of personal injury litigation. Accidents happen outside of the home when customers' and visitors' safety is not a priority. Those experiencing a slip and fall injury in a store, business, or a public gathering place should, if possible, document the incident with photos or videos, as well as the contact information for potential witnesses, and speak to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Some of the more common places where slip and fall accidents are likely to happen include:
“Most slip and fall accidents are preventable.” Property owners are obligated to maintain their parking lot in a way that avoids injury. Parking lot accidents happen when there is broken and uneven pavement, large holes or cracks, and insufficient lighting.
Gas stations are busy places, especially those with convenience stores attached. The heavy foot traffic often means spills and debris may go unnoticed. Oil and gas leaks near the pumps can be particularly hazardous.
Chicago has many apartment complexes that offer a variety of amenities, such as workout rooms, community kitchens, clubhouses, and swimming pools. In addition to poorly maintained stairwells and handrails, these communal spaces are prime locations for an injury-causing slip and fall accident.
Our many Indoor and outdoor amusement parks are part of the Chicago experience. With hundreds of people rushing to catch a favorite ride, food vendors spilling food, water features, and sometimes poor lighting, these places can be a hot spot for severe slip and fall injury.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities
Wet floors, insufficient lighting, broken railings, or a lack of railings are all possible reasons residents and visitors may be injured due to a fall.
Hotels and resorts
Hotel and resort property owners are subject to premises liability laws, mandating they maintain a safe environment for their guests. These facilities can have many tripping hazards that may lead to a slip and fall, such as wet floors, worn carpets, defective elevators or escalators, and broken concrete or pavement in parking areas.
Restaurants and bars
A slip and fall is an accident waiting to happen, especially in a bar or restaurant when overcrowding due to poor interior design merges with spilled food and drink.
Thousands of people fall on escalators every year due to:
- Missing teeth on the track
- Loose or missing screws
- Spacing issues between the steps and the escalator sides
- Broken or missing steps
- Broken parts
After severe injuries, you can hold several different people liable for financial compensation, including:
- The property owner
- The property manager
- The company responsible for installation, inspection, maintenance, and repairs
Grocery stores, retail stores, and gyms
Property liability and negligence come into play in slip and fall accidents in grocery stores, retail stores, and gyms. Any public place with a sidewalk, a floor, and merchandise and equipment is a potential source of life-changing injury.
In addition to wet and slippery floors and broken stairs, the culprit causing a patron to fall can include:
- Merchandise displays blocking aisles
- Misplaced baskets or carts
- Uneven or cracked pavements
- Poor housekeeping practices
- Spilled food or beverage items
- Fallen clothing or other merchandise
- Exposed electrical cords and wires
- Inadequate lighting
- Leaking from sinks or refrigeration sources
Stadiums, concert halls, and theaters
Places like Soldier Field (with a seating capacity of 61,500 spectators), Wrigley Field, and the United Center create a perfect storm for personal injury incidents like a slip and fall. Any public gathering place that caters to large crowds has a probability of food and/or beverages being carried back and forth between vendors and seats, the consumption of alcohol, overcrowded bathrooms that are anything but dry and clean, and the probable lack of immediate cleanup.
Wherever crowds gather, hazards can arise. In addition to thorough maintenance and upkeep, such places must follow safety codes. A violation is a failure to provide a safe environment. Injured parties can hold those responsible for their financial losses.
Seeking Compensation For A Slip-And-Fall Accident In Illinois
It is possible to file a personal injury claim against a property owner (or responsible entity) without the help of an attorney. I would venture to say the responsible insurance company would prefer it.
Negotiating a settlement with a layperson instead of a seasoned lawyer gives the insurance company a distinct advantage. When the injury is catastrophic and life-changing, there is a lot at stake for an accident victim and their family. The initial consultation with a personal injury attorney is usually free—and well worth the time and effort it takes to make a telephone call.
Those attempting to recover financially without legal counsel may deal with a claims adjuster determined to devalue or deny their claim. An attorney can protect clients from the unscrupulous tactics many insurance companies use.
An experienced slip and fall personal injury lawyer has the knowledge, training, and experience to help accident victims build a strong compensation case.
Additionally, a lawyer can:
- Help a victim understand the legal process, review the case details, and explain the legal options
- Conduct a comprehensive investigation of the accident
- Review police and accident reports
- Gather medical bills and records
- Request any footage of the accident that may be available
- Gather and preserve evidence
- Interview witnesses
- File required court documents promptly
- Calculate the fair current and future damages
- Deal with the insurance company in the negotiation process
- Advise a client if the offered settlement seems unfair
- Take a claim to trial
Do not hesitate to contact a personal injury legal team today to learn more about how to recover damages for slip and fall accident-related injuries.