Slip and Falls: Seemingly Simple Accidents With Highly Complex Mechanics

People can seriously injure themselves by slipping and falling. For example, slipping on liquid spilled on the floor while shopping at a store could result in a broken bone or herniated disc, while tripping on a poorly placed electrical cord in an office building could cause a brain injury. When these accidents occur on commercial properties or on slippery flooring surfaces, especially where the property owners knew or should have known about the dangers, injured people may have claims for negligence in Rhode Island.

We All Fall Down

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one million people in the U.S. sustain injuries from slipping or tripping and falling each year. In addition, about 17,000 individuals die annually from injuries caused by slip-and-fall accidents. The CDC classifies falls into two main types, namely elevated and same level. In comparison, same-level falls occur more often, but the injuries that victims of elevated falls suffer are more severe. An example of a same-level fall occurred in Rhode Island.

Quick Slip, Broken Hip

Consider the scenario where a woman recently received compensation for her injuries in a slip-and-fall accident. Priscilla Chappell attended a memorial service in a city building in Narragansett, Rhode Island. She tripped on a segment of flooring with a six-inch drop in front of the kitchen door, because it had been raised during a previous renovation. She fell and broke her hip, which rendered her partially disabled. She sued the city as well as the architects and restoration crew who completed the renovation for negligence.

Even though she was found partially responsible for her fall, because she was in an area not typically accessed by the public, an arbitrator awarded Chappell over $200,000 in damages. The arbitrator found that the negligence of all defendant parties contributed to Chappell’s accident and injuries, especially by improperly designing the slope of the floor, overlooking safety concerns in its renovation and failing to install a warning sign of the step down to the kitchen. In such cases, the flooring issues are key.

Surface Slip-Resistance

Many incorrect assumptions about slip-and-fall accidents, such as a person’s clumsiness or inattention, can lead to similar incidents in the same problem spots. This is particularly true of at-risk people, such as the elderly or physically impaired. While people fall for many reasons, contributing factors could be people’s walking processes, how their shoes move on certain surfaces, the accident environment, or the intellectual or physical restrictions of the victims. Other contributing factors could be the surface materials, finishes or cleaning products used on floors.

When it comes to flooring, some materials are more slip resistant than others. In addition, they must be installed and maintained correctly to give walkers or runners safe passage. For example, concrete is generally a safe walking surface. However, if it is not cured properly when poured, it can become slick and dangerous. Vinyl tiles are often regarded as risk-free flooring, but stone surfaces, such as marble or terrazzo, are slipping hazards. Slip-and-fall accidents can be embarrassing and cause major injuries, but they can be prevented.

Falling Over Spilled Milk

The next time you are in a grocery store, be aware of how your shoes interact with the store’s flooring; how you walk may make you more prone to slipping or tripping on a certain floor surface. Also, watch for and avoid spilled substances such as milk on the floor. Remember that the possibility of experiencing a slip-and-fall accident is always present and the circumstances may be just right for you to suffer injuries from a fall.

If you or a loved one experiences a slip and fall while walking or running in a commercial property or building, contact an experienced Rhode Island personal injury attorney. A lawyer who understands the mechanics of slip-and-fall accidents and which types of floor surfaces are especially dangerous can discuss your case with you and assess whether you have a claim for damages under applicable Rhode Island laws.



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