When we consider accidents that result in severe injury, we might think of car accidents or perhaps an accident involving fire (like a backyard barbecue), or explosives (fireworks), or maybe an accident that happens at a construction site (some heavy machinery malfunctioning or falling on someone). A slip and fall accident, while perhaps seeming mundane and common, can cause serious harm to a person. While people of an advanced age may experience worse injuries, a person of any age can end up severely injured from slipping and falling. It may happen at an assisted living home where a slick spot on the floor hasn’t been properly cleaned, or at the entrance of a supermarket where the tile floor of the entrance is wet from rain.
As we approach winter, it’s increasingly likely you may slip on someone’s front steps or driveway that might be covered with dangerous black ice. Wherever it is, the injuries could change your life forever should you hit your head, or land on your back or hip the wrong way. Brain injuries, injuries to your spine, and hip injuries can all require serious and immediate attention; and even then, you may never truly return to how you once were. In these cases, you should contact a personal injury or premises liability attorney, so that if your slip and fall accident was caused by someone else’s negligent actions, your pain and suffering won’t go uncompensated.
What are common causes of a slip and fall accident?
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we’re not strangers to slippery conditions. However, that doesn’t keep hundreds of people from slipping and falling every year. There are many causes for slip and fall accidents, though an icy sidewalk might be our first thought.
Other common causes of slip and fall accidents include:
- Uneven or broken tiles and floors
- Uneven or torn carpet
- Poor lighting
- Blocked pathways
- Wet, slippery entrance ways to public buildings
- Uneven stairways and steps
- Broken or faulty elevators and escalators
- Loose handrails and guardrails
- Missing signage (such as “wet floor” or “out of service”)
As we can see, there’s more to a slip and fall accident than we might imagine. Often, these accidents occur because of poorly maintained or neglected property, and if you are on public property or on someone else’s premises, then there is a duty of care that the owners have a requirement to meet. You shouldn’t have to pay for a catastrophic injury you suffered from tripping down someone else’s broken staircase.
What are some severe injuries caused by slip and fall accidents?
While you can expect bruising and abrasions from any fall, perhaps even sprained or torn joints, you may not expect a serious, life-threatening injury. The reality is that due to a lack of friction, the high momentum, combined with gravity, can all combine in the worst ways to bring about life-altering injuries. Some severe injuries caused by slip and fall accidents include:
- Traumatic brain injuries. When your head is hit by, or hits an object at force (or even if it is jostled hard), your brain collides with the inside of your skull. This causes a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and can cause bruises and abrasions leading to internal bleeding and swelling. Symptoms of a TBI include headaches, dizziness, confusion, loss of short term memory, nausea, loss of consciousness, and blurred vision. Long–term effects of a TBI include memory loss, permanent brain damage, depression, sleep problems, difficulty focusing and problem solving, and personality changes. TBIs can also lead to comas and even death.
- Spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury (SCI) can cause paralysis, chronic pain, and even death. When a person loses only some function and sensation to the part of their body located under the site of the injury on their spine, this is called partial paralysis. When you lose all function and sensation to that part of your body, that is full paralysis. Falling on a staircase or on an object during a slip and fall accident increases the likelihood of suffering a SCI.
- Dislocated hip. A traumatic hip dislocation occurs when, during an accident such as a slip and fall, “the head of the thighbone (femur) is forced out of its socket in the hip bone (pelvis).” The pain is acute and severe and can leave the victim unable to move their leg. During a hip dislocation, “ligaments, labrum, muscles, and other soft tissues holding the bones in place” are usually damaged. Even nerves can be damaged, and if so, the victim may not be able to feel sensation in their foot or ankle. Treatment usually requires a doctor to pop the femur bone back into place (reduction) – this requires sedation and anesthesia. However, if parts or shards of bone have broken from the hip or femur, then surgery will be required. Complications include nerve injury, which leads to weakness of the leg and Osteonecrosis, which occurs when blood flow to the bone is lost; it can cause the destruction of the hip joint and lead to arthritis. Arthritis is another complication, which is the wearing down or destruction of the cartilage between joints.
- Fractured hip. Falls are one of the most common causes of hip fractures, and the risk of them occurring and causing serious damage increases with age as bones become weaker and less dense. Symptoms of a hip fracture include bruising and swelling around the hip area, the inability to walk, pain in the hip and groin region, and an outward turning of the leg on the injured side of the hip. Treatment requires surgery and rehabilitation. Long-term effects of a fractured hip include difficulty walking, muscle loss, and chronic pain.
All of these injuries are serious and possibly life-threatening, so it is critical that if you are in an accident where you suffer from such an injury, even if you’re not sure, you should see a medical professional as soon as possible.
Do I need a Vancouver, WA slip and fall attorney?
If you slip and fall on someone else’s property due to negligence on their part, then you absolutely should seek the counsel of a slip and fall attorney. Such an accident would be covered in a premises liability lawsuit, as the owner of the property had a duty of care concerning anyone who might step onto their property. If you hurt yourself in your own home, there’s no lawsuit there; but if you slip in a puddle at the grocery store where there is no “wet floor” sign, then that grocery store was negligent.
Treatment for these severe injuries is expensive, and can cause you to lose your job and your income. You don’t deserve to suffer financially for someone else’s negligence. At Philbrook Law Office, we steadfastly represent our clients, working to ensure that they receive the most from their claim. To schedule an appointment, call us or use our contact page. We have offices in Vancouver, WA as well as Battle Ground. We want to represent you.
Founding Attorney Matthew Philbrook attended Clark College, Washington State University, and Gonzaga University School of Law. He is a member of the Washington State and Oregon State Bar Associations and started Philbrook Law Office in 2005. He specializes in Personal Injury, DUI and Criminal Defense cases. Learn more about Mr. Philbrook.