People often make light of pratfalls, including Hollywood artists (e.g., Chevy Chase, Jerry Lewis and Dick van Dyke) who have made a living out of making people laugh about falling down.
But the fact is that slips and falls are no laughing matter, as they are the number one cause of disabling accidents in the home and workplace. According to the National Safety Council and the National Floor Safety Institute, bad falls, 70 percent of which occur on flat surfaces, are also responsible for nearly 9 million emergency room visits per year, resulting in more than 20,000 fatalities.
Slips and falls are also the leading cause of occupational injury, even for those between the ages of 15 and 24 years old, and they account for the most lost days from work among all occupational injuries. They also account for nearly half of all construction accident deaths in Illinois, according to the 2011 reports of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The ITT-Hartford Insurance Company reports that falls also account for 16 percent of all compensation claims and 26 percent of all related insurance costs. Furthermore, compensation and medical costs associated with employee slips and falls, whether or not covered by workers compensation, is roughly $70 billion annually.
Falling is also a particular hazard in nursing homes, where 60 percent of residents will take at least one fall each year. Falls account for 40 percent of all nursing home admissions as well, and they are the 6th leading cause of death among people aged 70 and over.
Fractures are the most common serious consequence from falling, afflicting more than 5 percent of those who suffer falls serious enough to warrant medical attention. Falls also account for more than 87 percent of all fractures among people over the age of 65 years old, and they are the second leading cause of spinal cord and brain injury, based on National Floor Safety Institute statistics. Sadly, half of all adults over the age of 65 who are hospitalized for hip fractures will never return home or live independently after their injury.
The National Institute on Aging also warns that falls are a hazard for seniors who are in good shape, as well as those who are not, as nearly one-third of all seniors (people over the age of 65) will sustain a fall this year and 10 percent of them will suffer serious injuries.
Overall, slips and falls represent a significant hazard for people at home, in the workplace and in medical care facilities. But many of these falls can be prevented. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, substandard floors and flooring materials contribute directly to more than 2 million fall injuries each year. Clutter on floors, untreated spills, and failures to mark subtle elevations also contribute to falls.
So, it is imperative that workplaces, care facilities and homes should have:
- Non-slip surfaces that are properly leveled;
- Regular cleaning and removal of hazardous clutter from floors;
- Prompt removal of spills;
- Markings in bright colors of elevations in surfaces; and
- Stairs that are level and consistently graded on each step.
If you or someone you love has suffered a costly and painful slip and fall injury, and you want to know if there may be a legal remedy for your damages, please do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 477-2500 to speak with a qualified personal injury attorney who can help you determine if and how you might have been harmed, and what you can do about it. You can also check out our Website for more information about our law firm, Cogan & Power, P.C.