Many slip and fall accidents cause victims little more than a moment of embarrassment. For some people, however, a slip or fall accident can result in severe injury. At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A,. we are committed to helping victims injured in slip and fall accidents receive fair compensation for their injuries and suffering. Our firm has helped countless clients hold negligent property owners liable for medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.
Slip and fall accidents are more common and more serious than most people think. The costs associated with the multitude of slip and fall accidents that happen every year in South Carolina are astronomical. If you have been injured in a fall accident that was caused by negligence on the part of the property owner, you may be entitled to compensation for all your injury-related expenses and effects such as pain and suffering, short and long term disability, and lost wages.
What Are Slip and Fall Accidents?
Slip and fall accidents involve a victim slipping or tripping and suffering an injury on someone else’s property. Slip and fall claims are personal injury claims handled under the doctrine of premises liability.
What Are Types of Slip and Fall Accidents?
Property owners and managers have a legal responsibility to keep their property reasonably free from unnecessary risks and hazards. These can include:
- Wet floors and walkways. One of the most common types of slip and fall accidents involves falls caused by wet floors and walkways. Retail stores and public buildings that fail to address wet surfaces or warn customers of slippery surfaces can be held liable for injuries. Carpets, plastic runners, bag stands for wet umbrellas, and caution signs warning passersby of a wet surface can significantly reduce the chance of an accident or injury. Spills in public places should be covered until they are cleaned up, and wet floor fans can be used to help expedite quick drying of wet surfaces. When those responsible for maintaining the space fail to take adequate steps to protect those they invite onto the property, they should be held accountable.
- Snow and ice on sidewalks, parking lots, and roadways. Snow and ice may be unavoidable, but it is the responsibility of the property owner to remove these dangers as soon as possible following a storm or cold weather event. Snow and ice removal should be followed by salt or sand applications to reduce the risk of slips and falls. Areas cleared of snow and ice can quickly refreeze once the sun goes down or temperatures drop. Adding a layer of salt or sand can keep ice from reforming on these surfaces. Parking lots with black ice can be dangerous places for vehicles and pedestrians that mistake icy areas for wet surfaces. Reapplication of abrasives to these areas can reduce the likelihood of a slip and fall accident.
- Poor lighting in parking lots. Broken bones, serious sprains, cuts and lacerations, and head injuries can result when people fall into a pothole or trip over a wheel stop that may not be visible during nighttime hours. Property owners are responsible for providing adequate lighting in these areas as well as fixing potholes and painting wheel stops in bright, reflective colors to help avoid accidents.
- Poorly maintained handrails. Loose, damaged, or missing handrails on stairways can cause people to tumble down stairs and suffer traumatic brain injuries and broken bones. Homeowners, retailers, and managers of public spaces should conduct regular inspections and routine maintenance on stairways and handrails to reduce the risk of injuries.
- Torn carpet and damaged flooring. Uneven floor surfaces can result in a person losing their balance and falling onto their head, back or spinal area. Torn carpet edges can cause a person to trip and fall forward, often leading to head and facial injuries and broken arms and hands. Property owners can be held responsible for these injuries when they fail to fix loose handrails or broken stairs in a timely manner.
Are Slip and Fall Cases Hard to Win?
Slip and fall cases can be challenging to pursue successfully. A victim will need to take certain steps to help prove the property owner’s liability. These could include:
- Taking photos and videos at the scene
- Collecting witness information
- Gathering documentation, including medical records
A qualified slip and fall attorney could help gather and prepare evidence to demonstrate liability. For instance, a premises liability lawyer could subpoena to obtain footage from security cameras. Assistance from an experienced slip and fall lawyer could make it much easier to prove negligence and receive appropriate compensation.
How Do You Prove Negligence In a Slip and Fall Accident?
In order to succeed in recovering damages, a victim must prove the negligence of the property owner or occupier caused the slip and fall accident. The victim should be prepared to demonstrate that:
- The property owner or occupier owed the victim a duty of care
- They breached this duty of care
- The breach caused the accident
- The accident resulted in damages
An knowledgeable attorney can help satisfy these requirements and build a strong case.
Who is Responsible For a Slip and Fall Accident?
Generally, the property owner or occupier is responsible for injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident. Owners and occupiers have a duty to keep their premises safe for all visitors, and if they fail to fulfill this duty, they will be liable for harm that occurs as a result. The extent of the duty owed generally depends on the circumstances of the case.
South Carolina Premises Liability Law
Premises liability laws in South Carolina have strict mandates and deadlines. Because the laws applicable to slip and fall cases are complex, it is wise for an accident victim to consult an experienced and knowledgeable lawyer who can work to ensure that the case meets the burden of proof and complies with deadlines established by the statute of limitations.
Victims of slip and fall accidents should seek medical attention for their injuries as soon as possible. This can help ensure proper treatment of the injury as well as provide valuable documentation of the circumstances regarding the accident. Additionally, pictures of the accident scene and witness testimony should be gathered soon after the incident. Both provide vital forms of evidence needed to help prove the negligence of the property owner. Medical records and documentation of all diagnostic tests and results are also critical when pursuing a claim. An experienced premises liability lawyer will be able to establish the right legal strategy and determine if it is in the best interest of the plaintiff to pursue a trial or negotiate a settlement.
Slip and Fall Hazards In the Workplace
According to the National Safety Council, fall injuries in the U.S. cost approximately $70 billion in Workers’ Compensation and medical costs each year. Falls are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries, second only to overexertion. It is therefore important for employers to be able to spot slip and fall hazards in the workplace to reduce on-the-job injuries and associated costs. The following are a few effective ways to uncover slip and fall hazards in the workplace:
Conduct Comprehensive Safety Audits
Comprehensive safety audits can reveal unsafe workplace conditions that must be addressed to reduce risk of employee injury, illness or death. However, traditional safety audits often do not address floor safety. Employers should inspect all walking-working surfaces and conduct a more in-depth floor safety audit. Floor safety audits can be conducted either internally or by a certified walkway auditor which can be found on a list maintained by the National Floor Safety Institute.
Evaluate Incident Reports
Incident reports may provide some valuable information regarding recurring safety issues that need to be remedied. Slip and fall injuries may be repeatedly occurring in certain areas of the workplace or under certain circumstances. Being aware of these hazards can help focus employers’ attention on problem areas that must be fixed and monitored to reduce risks to employee safety.
Track Liquid Shipments
Many workplaces receive bulk shipments of liquids that are stored in cans, drums and tanks. Employers should track the liquids from arrival to storage to disposal. These storage containers can pose a hazard if they are leaky or if there is a spill. Use a floor plan to track the liquids’ movement through the facility and identify all potential hazards. Make spill response materials available to employees so they can clean up any spills and reduce their risk of suffering a slip and fall injury.
Encourage Employee Involvement
Encourage employees to take an active role in workplace safety and health. They often have the most firsthand knowledge of floor safety hazards and can provide valuable information regarding areas that pose the most risk. Employers can encourage employee involvement by sponsoring contests for employees to identify floor hazards which otherwise may be overlooked.
Ask for Advice and Assistance
Outside parties such as vendors and insurance carriers may be able to provide valuable advice and assistance. For example, floor vendors may be able to recommend cleaning products and technologies that make floors less slippery and safer for everyone. Insurance carriers have dealt with many claims for workplace slip and fall injuries and may therefore also be able to provide valuable information and resources to help identify and eliminate hazards. Inspection checklists, trainings and low- or no-cost audits can help to minimize slip and fall hazards and the reduce the risk of injury to employees.
CNA Slip and Fall Study Report
CNA Financial Corporation (CNA), a prominent insurance and risk management company, released a Slip and Fall Study Report that examined the floor safety in various industries. CNA walkway specialists emphasize that to maintain workplace safety, companies must choose appropriate flooring, test the floors for resistance under wet conditions, use appropriate cleaning agents for the floor type, and promote awareness of risk conditions related to flooring and the surrounding physical environment.
A two-year study of hard surface floors in commercial workplaces revealed that half of all workplace floors studied did not meet slip-resistance standards set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). According to the CNA report, 40 percent of slip and fall liability claims between January 2010 and December 2016 involved workplace accidents that occurred on walking and working surfaces, 33 percent occurred on parking lot surfaces, 27 percent occurred on sidewalks leading to building entrances, and less than one percent of harmful events occurred on interior office floors. The highest number of incidents occurred in the retail industry, followed by real estate, construction, health care, and professional services.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently implemented new rules aimed to help prevent slip and fall injuries from occurring on walking and working surfaces. The CNA report outlines the four principles of floor safety; floor selection, slip resistance training, floor maintenance, and risk awareness to help businesses apply safety measures, remain in compliance with safety rules and standards, and provide appropriate Workers’ Compensation benefits in the event that a worker suffers a slip and fall on-the-job.
Floor selection is critical to floor safety. Businesses should carefully consider whether each flooring option is appropriate for the intended use of the walkway. Slip resistance, chemical resistance, durability, care, maintenance, as well as other factors, should be considered when making a flooring decision.
Slip Resistance Testing
The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) published a new standard in April 2017 regarding the dynamic coefficient of friction (DCOF) of hard surface floors. The DCOF is the measurement of resistance force while an object is in motion. Business owners should consult with certified walkway specialists to ensure their compliance with the new industry standard, create a comprehensive floor safety program, and create a database of DCOF measurements.
Floors must be cleaned and maintained according to manufacturer recommendations. A slip resistant floor can become dangerous when contaminates layer over its original surface. Only compatible cleaning products and appropriate maintenance methods should be used.
Risk Awareness and Control Measures
Business owners are responsible for increasing employees’ risk awareness so that workers are cognizant of their gait, vision, and other factors that may affect their risk of suffering a slip and fall accident at work. They should also take certain control measures to safeguard against risks, including being proactive in analyzing and making necessary changes to walkways, providing training on fall-related safety principles, designing safe walkways and entrances, and reducing glare and design contrast when selecting floors.
Columbia Premises Liability Lawyers At Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Help Victims of Slip and Fall Accidents Claim Compensation
If you have been a victim of a slip and fall accident caused by negligence, you may be entitled to substantial compensation. Call our premises liability lawyers in Columbia at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. at 803-929-3600 or (803) 929-3600, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. We serve clients in South Carolina with five offices conveniently located throughout the state, including the communities of Lexington County, Richland County, Sumter County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Orangeburg County, Kershaw County, Newberry County, Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, Chapin, Rock Hill, Aiken, Sumter, Newberry, Florence, and Spartanburg.