Shopping Season Has Begun: Beware of Slip and Falls
The holidays last year were an unmitigated bust, and even if you did get your shopping done, getting things delivered in a timely manner was nearly out of the question. It is 2021, and we are all looking for a do-over, and the experts unanimously seem to agree that, this year, we are all shopping early and often. While you might do a lot of your shopping online, the holidays help to ensure that you are going to be out and about – with a shopping list in hand – more often than any other time of the year, and it is important to proceed with caution in order to help ensure that you do not fall victim to a slip and fall accident.
A Mixing and Mingling of Elements
There are a variety of factors that make slip and fall accidents more likely during the fall and winter months – and during the extended kickoff to the holidays – including:
Dropping temperatures and high winds can lead to icy drizzles, which can make sidewalks, entryways, and indoor walkways slippery.
The hustle and bustle of the holidays help to ensure that there will be more shoppers out there on any given day.
The consistent decrease in the number of employees that employers have been able to secure since the pandemic began can contribute to factors that make slip and fall accidents more likely.
The thrill of being able to enjoy the holidays in a way that is more consistent with what we are used to may lessen our defenses and leave us more vulnerable to slip and falls.
The Elements of Slip and Fall Claims
In order to bring a successful slip and fall claim, there are four specific elements that must be present. While proving these elements is best left in the capable hands of your personal injury attorney, understanding what they are can help you better understand the strengths and challenges of your case and help you better support your personal injury attorney’s efforts on your behalf.
Duty of Care Owed to You
When you head out to shop, to grab a bite, to run errands, or to do anything else, the owners and/or managers of the commercial properties you visit as a customer, client, or another kind of guest owe you a duty of care, which is a form of responsibility to your safety and is a necessary element of your slip and fall claim. This duty of care does not mean that the property owner is required to hold your hand and make sure that every step of your visit reaches the utmost level of safety, but it does mean that the owner or manager in question is responsible for reasonably maintaining the premises of the commercial property at the same level of safety that other reasonable property owners and managers do in similar situations.
In a slip and fall case on a commercial property, demonstrating that a duty of care is owed to you is nearly guaranteed to be met – unless you were wandering around where you should not have been (and knew that you should not have been there).
This Duty Was Breached
The second element of your Slip and fall claim is that the commercial property owner or manager must have breached the duty of care that was owed to you. For example, if most reasonable restaurant owners ensure that known spills are marked with warning signs almost immediately and cleared within 15 minutes – but you slip and fall as a result of a known spill that was left unattended for hours – the property owner’s responsibility to your safety has likely been breached. Other examples include:
Failing to clear debris and puddled moisture from entryways (that is dragged in by patrons)
Failing to maintain adequate lighting that facilitates safe passage
Failing to maintain floor coverings in a safe condition
Failing to keep walkways clear
Accident Caused by Breach
The third element of your slip and fall claim is that the breach of the duty owed to you was the direct cause of your slip and fall accident. It is not enough that the property owner neglected the responsibility that he or she owed you and that you slipped and fell – the two must be interconnected. For instance, if customers prior to you tracked in wet leaves and debris from outside into a store’s entryway; if the store owner knew about the slipping hazard – or reasonably should have known about it – but took no action to get it cleaned up; and if you slipped and fell as a result of that tracked in debris and moisture, the third element of your claim is met.
You Incurred Legal Damages
The final element of your slip and fall claim is that you suffered legal damages, and this simply means that you incurred damages – or losses – that are covered by the law, such as:
Pain and suffering
The damages associated with slip and falls are often considerable.
Your medical Costs
The severity of the injuries that are often caused by slip and fall accidents tends to require extensive medical care that can be ongoing. Those injuries that are susceptible to secondary health complications can compound the expense. Common medical expenses include:
Emergency care at the scene
Emergency transportation at the scene
Surgical care and follow-up care
Care from doctors, specialists, and other medical professionals
Medical treatment, care, procedures, and tests
Home health care
Adaptive physical devices
Adaptations to home, office, and vehicle
Your Lost Earnings
You have been injured, and while you heal, you can expect to be off the job and to experience a subsequent decrease in earnings – just when your medical bills are mounting. If your ability to perform your job and/or to advance your career is negatively affected, you could be looking at a decrease in your earning potential that spreads out across the course of your expected career. Due to how meaningful our careers are to many of us, this can be as emotionally difficult as it is financially.
Your Physical and Emotional Damage
In addition to those damages that it is easy to point to and identify, it is incredibly important to recognize the unseen damages, such as your physical and emotional pain. The immense physical pain and psychic suffering associated with slipping and falling as a result of someone else’s negligence can be very difficult to overcome. This pain and suffering can manifest in a variety of emotional consequences, including:
Severe mood swings
Shifts in personality
Bouts of depression
Increased anxiety, which can include anxiety attacks
Sleep disturbances that can include insomnia, nightmares, and/or night terrors
A tendency to self-isolate and to keep others at bay
Emotional lability that can include crying jags
One of the most difficult aspects of these emotional effects is that they can serve to keep the members of your support team out – just when you could use their love and support the most.
Slip and Falls: The Statistics
Many people mistakenly believe that slipping and falling is a relatively minor event, but the sad truth is that it can be very serious. The following statistics from the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) support this fact:
Falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States every year, accounting for more than 8 million ER visits, which is more than 21 percent of the total number of visits. Slip and falls specifically account for 12 percent of all such falls.
Five percent of all falls lead to fractures, the most common related injury (hip fractures being the most serious).
Floors and floor coverings contribute directly to over 2 million injury-causing falls each year.
About one out of every five slip and fall injuries results in more than 31 days off the job.
Falls are the number one cause of accidental injuries in the United States.
Suffice to say that slip and fall incidents happen all too often, and they can be exceptionally dangerous.
While slipping and falling can lead to virtually any kind of injury, there are several that are most commonly associated.
Breaks and Fractures
As mentioned, the most common injury associated with slipping and falling is a broken or fractured bone. These injuries are exceptionally painful, and even if the break is simple, it is slow to heal. Complicated breaks, on the other hand, are closely associated with serious complications that can lead to chronic pain, severe decreases in range of motion, and even physical disability (such as a permanent limp).
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are generally caused by a blow to the head or by the serious shaking of the head, and a slip and fall accident can do the trick. Because your personality and sense of self are housed in your brain, even a relatively minor TBI can have dramatic emotional repercussions.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Spinal cord injuries are often caused by an impact to the shoulder, neck, or back, and a serious fall can lead to a serious spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injuries are extremely painful, are slow to heal, and are closely associated with both lingering pain and decreases in range of motion. If the spinal cord injury severely damages the spinal cord, it can lead to paralysis, which can alter the course of your life.
Soft Tissue Injuries
Soft tissue injuries, such as whiplash, can be bedeviling – with debilitating symptoms that come and go and that are often exceptionally painful and extremely difficult to treat effectively.
Stay Safe this Holiday Season
You have got a lot to get done this holiday season, but taking the time to protect yourself from a painful and debilitating slip and fall accident will help ensure that you enjoy the season to the maximum degree possible. Keep all the following helpful hints in mind:
Plan your outings for when the weather is pleasant.
Coordinate your shopping trips to maximize the ground you cover and the errands you accomplish with the fewest number of comings and goings
Wear sensible shoes that are comfortable, well-fitting, and appropriate for the weather at hand
Do not carry more than you can comfortably handle – it is fine to take more than one trip out to your car or into your home
If you sense that the walkway is slippery, proceed with additional caution
Keep your wits about you and make safe choices
While it is great that we can get out there this year and make the most of the holidays again (or close to the most), it is also important to stay safe in relation to whatever may come your way, including the threat of slip and fall accidents.
Injured in a Slip and Fall? an Experienced Killeen Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
While no one can blame you for being excited about the holiday season this year, shopping is expected to be at the top of its game, which means that you need to be at the top of yours. Many stores are operating with bare-bones crews, and some store owners and managers are less vigilant about safety than they should be. If a commercial property owner or manager’s negligence leaves you injured in a slip and fall accident this holiday season, Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is a savvy personal injury attorney who dedicates his impressive practice to zealously advocating for the legal rights – and for the rightful compensation – of valued clients like you. Our skilled legal team is on your side and here to help you fully recover from your losses, so please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.