We see them all the time at grocery stores, those large yellow warning signs with the little cartoon person falling to his demise, warning us that the floor is wet. Have grocery stores always used these garish warning signs? Why are they so prevalent? The prevalence of these signs demonstrates an attempt by business owners to prevent their customers from slipping and falling on their floors and later bringing a lawsuit for their injuries.
Slip and fall lawsuits constitute a large area of tort law and are indeed some of the cases that receive the most publicity. Tort law is an area of the law in which a person can recover for an injury suffered as a result of someone else’s negligent or intentional behavior. This article will examine what slip and fall lawsuits are in terms of legal causes of action, the scope and frequency of these types of personal injury lawsuits, and the types of recovery for those injured by a slip and fall accident.
What is the Legal Basis of a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?
Slip and fall cases refer to those cases brought by people who have slipped, fallen, and injured themselves on someone else’s property as a result of someone else’s carelessness. Slip and fall cases are part of personal injury law; the injured parties who bring suit are personally injured by the store or business’s carelessness in leaving the floor wet. The injured person generally must demonstrate the following to be successful:
- The owner of the property had a duty to protect the injured person. Business owners have a duty to inspect for dangerous conditions on their property and warn their customers of those conditions.
- The owner was careless (negligent) or reckless about warning the customer of the dangerous slippery conditions.
- The owner’s carelessness caused the accidental slip and fall.
- The customer’s fall resulted in an injury.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to prove that the store owner or employees knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, so it is important to have a legal expert help determine the best way to gather the evidence showing that they did know about the wet floor.
Who Can the Injured Person Hold Financially Responsible for a Slip and Fall Injury?
These types of personal injury tort cases have a long and interesting history that we will briefly explore. A business can be held responsible for someone’s slip and fall accident when the business had control of the premises at the time of the accident.
This means that if an accident happens at a grocery store and the grocery store is renting the property from a landlord, the landlord may have shared or sole responsibility to compensate the injured person. The business that rents the premises may also have a responsibility to compensate the injured person if it had exclusive control of the area where the injured party slipped.
How Common are Slip and Fall Injuries?
The National Floor Safety Institute reports that falls are the reason for over 8 million emergency room visits in the U.S. yearly. Slip and falls account for over 1 million of the total of falls, or 12% of the total falls. While slip and fall injuries are generally not fatal occupational injuries, they are the most prevalent cause of people losing days at work. Additionally, slip and fall incidents are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims in the U.S. in adults who are 55 years old and older.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention notes the following about slip and fall cases:
- Fall injuries cost an average of $30,000.00 per fall. The CDC calculated this amount based on the fees for hospital care, nursing home care, prescription drugs, medical equipment, and insurance processing. This amount does not include the additional costs of lost work time, reduced quality of life, and/or dependence on other people.
- Fall injuries rank among the 20 most expensive medical injuries that a person can have.
- Most patients who fall are hospitalized due to a head injury or broken hip. In fact, over 800,000 patients are hospitalized every year in the U.S. due to slip and fall injuries.
- As a person ages, the cost of treating her injuries from a fall accident increases.
How Much Can Someone Recover From a Slip and Fall injury?
The statistics above show how expensive and damaging a slip and fall injury can be. In this section, we consider what types of compensation a victim of a slip and fall accident may be entitled to via a lawsuit.
The first type of compensation a successful injured party can receive is called specific compensation. This refers to compensation that is easy to quantify such as medical bills, in-home medical treatment, hospital stays, physical therapy, and other medical expenses.
The next type of compensation is called general compensation and covers items that are more difficult to quantify such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other consequences of the injury.
Some courts may award punitive damages as a way to punish the defendant for malicious or reckless actions. This standard is harder to meet than a business who only negligently or carelessly failed to warn the customer of a wet or slippery floor. When a plaintiff’s behavior is especially blameworthy, juries and courts often order a large sum to be paid to the victim as a way to deter others from acting so maliciously or recklessly.
We have seen evidence that slip and fall accidents are quite common in the United States. The treatment of slip and fall cases is also quite costly. With brain injury or hip injuries as common consequences of falling, it is important that businesses protect their customers by warning them of potentially dangerous conditions like wet or slippery floors. If you were the victim of a business’ carelessness and failure to warn of a condition, you may be able to receive compensation for your injuries. Please contact an experienced slip and fall personal injury attorney today.