What are Slip and Fall Injuries?
Slip and fall accidents result in many different types of injuries, some of which cause disability or death. Injured victims and their families may endure a number of lasting effects that drain their financials, as well as emotional resources. Depending on the type of injury, a victim may need the following:
- In-patient rehabilitation
- Physical therapy and occupational therapy
- Treatment for chronic pain
- In-home care assistance
- Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, or other assistive devices
- Home renovations, including ramps and bathroom remodeling
If an injured victim becomes disabled, they may also suffer loss of income. When another party’s negligence directly contributed to the accident, financial compensation may be available to help victims pay for expenses to aid in the recovery process. However, it may be difficult to prove negligence. A skilled slip and fall lawyer can provide injured victims with the legal guidance necessary to evaluate a personal injury claim and develop a strategy for proving negligence to obtain financial compensation.
How Often are People Injured in Slip and Fall Accidents?
Every day, thousands of people are involved in slip and fall accidents. The following statistics illustrate the physical and financial toll exacted by this mishap:
- Falls account for approximately eight million emergency room visits each year
- Slip and fall accidents account for another one million emergency room visits annually
- Injuries from falls are estimated to cost more than $13 million per year
- 30 million older adults fall each year, although most are not admitted to the hospital
In addition, about half of all accidental deaths at home are caused by a fall. Most fall injuries in the home occur at ground level.
Identifying Types of Injuries Caused by Slip and Fall Accidents
When a person falls, they may immediately be aware of the extent of their injuries. Other times, what seems like a minor cut or sprain may turn out to be a fracture or torn ligament. To identify the injury caused by a slip and fall accident, it is best to seek medical attention, even if you think you are not hurt. Common injuries from falls include those affecting the head, neck, and spine. Other injuries include cuts, lacerations, and bruises, broken bones and fractures, torn muscles and ligaments, dislocated shoulders, and other soft tissue damage.
Traumatic Brain Injury
If you trip or fall from a low elevation, you may experience only a mild headache. Traumatic brain injury may not appear for many hours after you fall, and it can happen even if your head does not hit the ground. Symptoms of traumatic brain injury may include the following:
- Loss of balance
You may later experience intense headaches. When you suffer a traumatic brain injury due to a fall, it may be characterized as a direct hit to the brain. Left untreated, a traumatic brain injury can produce devastating effects that last for months or years.
Spinal Cord Injuries
If you trip and fall on your back, you may injure your spinal cord. The nerves in your spine are fragile and can be damaged either from direct impact or stretching. This could result in a slipped disc, nerve damage, or a chipped vertebra. At worse, you could be temporarily or permanently paralyzed. Paralysis may also result in secondary medical conditions, including muscle spasms, rapid rise in blood pressure, and bladder and bowel problems. Spinal cord injuries require expensive treatment, frequently resulting in high medical bills.
Torn Muscles, Ligaments, and Tendons
When a person falls, it is a natural reaction to twist to prevent the fall or reach out to catch oneself. These actions often result in torn muscles or ligaments. The victim may not feel pain until a day or two later, and the results can be debilitating and last for weeks, requiring physical therapy and medications to heal. Although not life-threatening, injuries to muscles, ligaments, and tendons can prevent someone from working and bringing in much needed income.
Fractures and Broken Bones
Broken bones and fractures are the most common types of injuries in slip and fall accidents. Bones are broken when there is more pressure on a bone than it can withstand, and this is common in a fall. The older you are, the more likely it is that you will suffer a broken bone or hip fracture if you fall. However, it is not always immediately apparent that a victim of a fall has a broken bone. Getting an X-ray is a simple process and the best way to tell the difference between a sprain and a broken bone. The earlier you treat a broken bone, the faster it will heal.
Broken wrists and ankles are also common results of falling due to the natural tendency to put out our hands to protect ourselves from the impact of falling. However, if you fall forward and your shoulder hits the ground first, you could fracture your collarbone. Although this type of injury is rare, it can be very painful. Dislocated shoulders may also occur in this type of fall, requiring surgery.
Broken Wrists or Ankles
As mentioned, when we fall, our impulse is to throw out our hands to try to protect ourselves or prevent ourselves from falling too hard. This often puts too much pressure on our wrists or ankles. In these cases, a sprained wrist or ankle is a common result, but it is also not unusual for a wrist or ankle to break.
If you fall forward and do not have time to brace yourself, your knees may strike the ground first. This may result in torn ligaments or a fracture or dislocation of your knee. If that happens, you may need reconstructive surgery. This, along with tearing other ligaments, can take a very long time to heal.
Bruised or Fractured Tailbone
Falling backwards may result in bruising or fracturing your tailbone. This type of injury makes it difficult to sit, stand, or use the bathroom. Typically, the main course of treatment is to sit on a special pillow that is designed to take the pressure off the bruised area.
Hip fractures are among the most common type of injury sustained by persons aged 65 years and older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost all hip fractures are the result of a slip and fall accident. Many of these injuries require hospitalization or in-patient rehabilitative care.
Lacerations, Cuts, and Bruises
Falls often cause bruises. Although they may be less severe than head or spinal cord injuries, they may indicate more serious damage under the skin. Seeking medical attention is important for documenting the underlying cause of medical problems that may develop later.
Soft Tissue Damage
Soft tissue damage is notoriously difficult to detect and diagnose, yet it can be very painful. Left untreated, soft tissue damage can produce chronic pain and lead to other injuries because the victim attempts to compensate by overusing other parts of the body.
If victims scrape their arms or legs on the ground after falling, it is possible that they could suffer from permanent scarring as a result.
How Severe are Injuries from Slip and Fall Accidents?
The severity of injury due to a fall or slip and fall accident will depend on several factors:
- Age of victim
- Circumstances of the fall
- Nature of injury
Age is perhaps the most important factor influencing the severity of an injury from falling. An older patient in a nursing home who is on anticoagulant medication may suffer a severe head injury just by falling out of bed. Similarly, very young children may suffer severe injury by falling from a crib or a bed. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, part of the CDC, has stated that slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for children under 10 and persons older than 24. In addition:
- Slip and fall accidents cause nearly 90 percent of the fractures in those over 65 years old, and are a leading cause of spinal cord injuries and brain traumas
- Slip and fall accidents are responsible for 40 percent of all admissions to nursing homes
A slip and fall injury can also lead to death. Many fatalities at construction sites are caused by falls, even at heights lower than six feet.
Falls During Pregnancy
Falls during pregnancy may cause harm to the woman, as well as to her unborn child, especially if the fall occurs during the third trimester. At that stage in pregnancy, if a woman falls and there is direct trauma to the abdomen, she should seek immediate medical attention, particularly if she experiences any pain, unusual bleeding, or contractions. Minor falls during the early stages of pregnancy are less likely to harm the unborn child.
Where Do Falls Occur?
Many accidents that involve tripping and falling occur in the home. If someone is hurt in their own home, it is unlikely that third parties be held at-fault. However, when a person falls on someone else’s property, the property owner may be found to have been careless or negligent. Locations of these types of falls and slip and fall accidents include the following:
- Sidewalks. If private property owners neglect to repair their sidewalks or remove snow or ice, they may be liable if someone falls. However, state and local governments are typically immune from liability for poorly maintained sidewalks. If it can be proven that municipalities are negligent, strict claim-filing procedures may apply and will vary by jurisdiction.
- Stairs. Falling down stairs can lead to potentially severe injuries, including damage to the spinal cord or the brain. Property owners may be found negligent if the stairs were uneven, too narrow or too deep, lacked proper handrails, or were not constructed according to applicable building codes.
- Shopping Injuries. These injuries occur when patrons visit a retail establishment, such as a store, mall, or restaurant. Shopping injuries account for thousands of personal injury claims each year. Often, the injuries are due to wet floors. However, there may also be injuries due to escalator malfunctions or falls as a result of poor lighting or a failure to remove ice or snow in a parking lot.
- At Work. Falls are the number one cause of construction worker fatalities. Slip and fall accidents are also the most common type of Workers’ Compensation claim and account for the most missed days on the job.
If you fall on someone else’s property and you have reason to believe that their negligence directly contributed to your accident, you must be able to establish that a dangerous condition existed on the property and this was a direct cause of your injury. In addition, you would need to establish certain facts in order to have a strong personal injury claim, including the following:
- The owner of the property knew, or should have known, about the dangerous condition of their property
- The owner did not regularly inspect or maintain the property
- You would not have been injured if the dangerous condition did not exist
In New Jersey, you have two years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit or it will not be considered, owing to the statute of limitations. If you want to file a claim for property damage, you may have up to six years to file. Also, it is important to know that New Jersey follows comparative negligence when awarding recovery in personal injury cases. That means that if the injured person is more than 50 percent at-fault for the accident, they may not be eligible for a settlement. This standard is typically applied in out-of-court settlements with insurance companies as well.
New Jersey Slip and Fall Lawyers at Ellis Law Provide Aggressive Representation for Injured Victims
If you suffered a serious injury in a slip and fall accident, do not delay in seeking medical help and legal guidance. If your accident was due to the carelessness or negligence of another party, you may be eligible for compensation. The qualified New Jersey slip and fall lawyers at Ellis Law are skilled at holding negligent parties responsible and obtaining just compensation. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Centrally located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.