Slip and Fall Accidents Can Have Catastrophic Results
Some people think of slip and fall accidents as a slip or trip on a flat walking surface. The most catastrophic injuries, however, often occur during falls that involve steps, playground equipment, work sites, and elevated areas. If you were seriously injured in a slip and fall accident in the Tampa Bay area, you were likely physically and emotionally traumatized by the occurrence.
As with other accidents, slip and falls happen when you least expect them, and they usually take the victim by surprise. Oftentimes, the injuries are so severe that they become overwhelming from the moment the incident occurs.
Each year, more than 800,000 people seek emergency intervention for slip and fall-related injuries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent national statistics reveal that medical treatment for fall-related injuries totaled $50 billion in a single year. Severely injured victims receive treatment for brain injuries, fractures requiring surgery and internal fixation, spinal damage, and other serious conditions.
While catastrophic injuries can vary greatly, they all have a few things in common. First, they require immediate emergency care and long term medical treatment. Second, they often cause impairments or lifelong disabilities. As the liability issues are complex, damage recovery efforts often present complicated legal challenges. Injured victims should enlist the services of a knowledgeable attorney if they hope to recover compensation for the full cost of their injuries.
No One Is Safe From Fall-Related Injuries
Parents see falls as a normal part of growing up. Children do fall frequently, but there are no age limits on slip and fall mishaps. People in all age groups can become slip and fall victims, and many sustain serious and catastrophic injuries.
Job-related tasks are sometimes a factor in adult slip and fall cases. Because of physical frailties, young children and seniors can endure catastrophic injuries from even minor falls. For seniors, falls are the initiating event for 95 percent of hip fracture-related emergency room visits. For children ages 0 to 19, national statistics document 8,000 fall-related emergency room visits each day.
Slip and fall victims of all ages sometimes sustain one or more catastrophic injuries, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Paralysis and partial paralysis
- Multiple/severe fractures with internal fixation
- Damaged bodily functions such as vision or movement
- Damaged internal organ functions
- Severe bodily impairment
Slips and Falls on the Job
Falls are a major cause of job-related injuries and deaths. In fact, slip and fall accidents are number two on the list often designated by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as Construction’s Fatal Four. Workers may fall from elevated scaffolding, heavy equipment, buildings under construction, and other job site area. They may trip over equipment or in common areas and walkways.
Falls are a recurrent cause of workplace injuries. The most recent national OSHA statistics show that falls caused 381 of the 971 on-the-job fatalities reported to the agency in a single year. Many occupations put workers at an increased risk of slip and fall injuries. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that 62 Florida workers died from fatal falls or trips while on the job. Twenty-four of the employees fatally injured in Florida were working in construction trades, and the rest were performing service tasks, ground maintenance, installations, repairs, and other jobs.
Slips and Falls and Catastrophic Senior Injuries
Seniors who fall can sustain traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and hip fractures. The medical consequences often last far beyond the initial incident. Given their diminishing physical conditions, some seniors never bounce back from their injuries. The CDC’s national slip and fall statistics reveal a steadily rising death rate among senior slip and fall victims. Seven seniors die each hour from injury complications caused by slip and falls.
Hip fractures occur most frequently in slip and fall victims who are 65-years of age or older. Elderly women fall more frequently than elderly men. Because of bone issues, such as osteoporosis, women also sustain hip fractures at higher rates than men. After a hip fracture, pulmonary embolisms, infections, heart failure, and other health issues can increase senior mortality rates.
Slips and Falls and Catastrophic Childhood Injuries
Children are at increased risk for catastrophic injuries because they have so many slip and fall opportunities. Playground falls generate two-thirds of childhood fall-related emergency room visits. Sporting events and organized sports include numerous childhood slip and fall risk factors. Children ages 5 to 9 require emergency treatment for slip and falls more frequently than other age groups, and boys require treatment more often than girls.
Children sustain the same types of catastrophic injuries as adults who fall. As with seniors, a child’s frail bones increase the chances that a fracture will cause serious consequential harm. Childhood skull fractures are a factor in catastrophic TBI injuries. As a child’s bones are still developing and growing, a fracture can damage a growth plate in an arm or a leg. These injuries may require long-term monitoring and care. In some children, they limit bone growth and cause bone shortening or bone malformations.
Slip and falls on playground surfaces and equipment are a primary cause of childhood fall injuries. Consider the following statistics:
- Fractures comprise 56 percent of the childhood playground injuries treated in emergency rooms.
- 75 percent of childhood injuries occur on playground equipment in public play areas and on school playgrounds.
- Two-thirds of childhood traumatic brain injuries involved monkey bars, climbing equipment, or swings.
- When the Consumer Product Safety Commission investigated playground fatalities, the victim’s average age was 6. Fifteen percent of victims received their fatal injuries from a fall.
Slip and Falls and Traumatic Brain Injuries
Data from the Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems cites falls as the cause of 27 percent of the 16,495 TBIs tracked by the group. Brain injury is a series of conditions that begin with either a closed or open head trauma. While people usually recover from minor TBIs, 20 to 40 percent of the most significantly brain-traumatized patients die from their injuries. Other brain injury patients never awaken from injury-induced comas or vegetative states.
Injured victims with moderate to severe TBIs may recover, but they often deal with significant lifestyle changes. As the National Institute for Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research explains, moderate to severe brain injury is a lifelong condition. Patients begin their healing process with inpatient hospital stays. Their care often includes rehabilitation that helps indoctrinate them to a new way of life.
When brain injury patients return to their home environments, they may need to make significant adjustments. As they recover, they must manage cognitive, emotional, memory, pain, and other physical issues. They might endure changes in employment, home responsibilities, family roles, and relationships. Some TBI-impaired patients must re-learn personal care regimens, driving, and other basic skill-sets. As TBI patients age, doctors believe that brain injuries cause cognitive declines, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, and other conditions.
Slip and Falls and Spinal Cord Injuries
The National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center classified falls as the cause of 31.6 percent of the SCIs in its database. When the spine is traumatized during a slip and fall, patients suffer varying degrees of paralysis. Their loss of functionality is based on the damage level location on the spine. Whether the spinal cord damage is complete (severed) or incomplete (damaged) also affects functionality losses. Doctors categorize SCI damage as:
- Tetraplegia: Functional losses caused by an injury high on the spine.
- Triplegia: Functional losses caused by an injury low on the spine.
- Paraplegia: Paralysis and functional losses of the lower body and legs.
Patients with spinal cord injuries must work on their recoveries for a lifetime. After they reach maximum injury recovery as an inpatient, they can continue their rehabilitation as outpatients. Partially paralyzed patients must relearn basic skills and manage significant lifestyle changes. As they learn to perform normal activities again, they must rely on assistance, retraining, and therapy to maintain their recovery progress.
Who Pays for Your Slip and Fall Injuries?
If a property owner’s negligent action or inaction caused your fall, he or she should pay for your injuries. Property owners must maintain their properties to prevent injuries. They must also eliminate or warn of any hidden hazards. In Florida, a person’s status on the premises determines an owner’s degree of legal liability for the injuries that a person sustains while on the property.
Your status depends on whether you were an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser at the time of the accident.
- An invitee: A property owner owes a reasonable degree of care and a duty to warn of hazards to someone that the owner specifically encouraged to enter the property.
- A licensee: For a person who may enter the property but wasn’t specifically invited, the property owner owes that individual some recognized duties, but not as many as owed to an invitee.
- A trespasser: For a person who has no right to enter a premises, the property owner owes only a duty not set traps.
An injured individual’s own level of negligence also affects his or her ability to collect damages. Under Florida law, an insurance company or jury will reduce any settlement based on the injured person’s percentage of fault. For example, if an injured person wasn’t wearing his or her glasses, had been drinking, or was otherwise negligent, any settlement would consider this negligence. A jury or insurance company would reduce any settlement accordingly.
Can an Employee Make a Claim for a Workplace Slip and Fall Injury?
Slip and fall liability issues are more complicated for on-the-job injuries. They involve negligence, the injured person’s employment status, and an assessment of the circumstances that caused the fall. In most cases, workers’ compensation benefits are an employee’s only recourse for compensation. An injured worker can only pursue a liability claim against responsible parties under certain circumstances, such as:
- A non-employee contractor or subcontractor caused or contributed to the slip and fall incident.
- A defective product or piece of equipment caused the fall.
- The incident occurred on another person or entity’s property.
When a worker sustains a catastrophic injury on the job, his or her eligibility for recovery is often crucial to financial survival. After a catastrophic injury, income losses begin immediately and may continue indefinitely. Unfortunately, Florida’s workers’ compensation benefits pay injured workers only two-thirds of their pre-injury pay.
An injured worker can receive Social Security disability benefits, as well. These two benefits combined will pay a maximum of 80 percent of a person’s lost wages. Some injured workers receive workers’ compensation settlements, but a settlement is never guaranteed. Often a liability claim is the only way an injured worker can recover from the financial losses that an injury causes.
Do You Need an Attorney to Recover Damages?
Slip and fall cases start out complicated from the very beginning; that’s why it’s important to have a knowledgeable attorney providing guidance early on in the process. When you’re injured in a slip and fall on someone else’s premises, the property owner won’t likely step up and volunteer payment. Whether an individual or a major corporation, owners might not even report the claim to their insurance company.
When an insurance company does open a claim file, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will pay your claim voluntarily. Catastrophic injuries present high-dollar loss exposures, so insurance companies conduct comprehensive investigations before making a commitment. They may perform site investigations, contact witnesses, and seek input from their policyholders. If an injured person cooperates, he or she might get a recorded statement and information documenting any injuries.
Claim investigators look for contradictions in an injured person’s statement. They will likely inspect medical bills of accident victims. In many instances, insurance companies support future liability denials and defend lawsuits with information uncovered during an investigation.
When you sustain serious injuries in a slip and fall, you should know and understand your legal rights. You should also avoid one-on-one discussions with insurance company representatives. At the Dolman Law Group, our Tampa Bay personal injury attorneys have helped our clients deal with these issues. Our lawyers understand the legal issues and injury complications involved in slip and fall cases. While we cannot guarantee a favorable result in your case, we know how to get fair compensation for our clients.
Call Our Tampa Bay Slip and Fall Lawyers
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a slip and fall on a property in the Tampa Bay area, contact us today. We’ve recovered millions of dollars for our clients. Let us see if we can help you. Call the Dolman Law Group at (727) 451-6900, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765