Falls are among the leading cause of accidental injuries and death in the United States, resulting in nearly 9 million visits to hospital emergency rooms each year, according to the National Safety Council.
Older people are most susceptible to falling. The number of deaths from falls among adults age 65 and older is four times higher than that of any other age group.
Here are four types of fall accidents that often result in personal injury:
- Trip-and-fall accidents, which occur by stumbling over an object in your walking path.
- Stumble-and-fall accidents, when you stumble after encountering a bump, crack or other impediment in the walking surface.
- Step-and-fall accidents, when you fall because the walking surface fails or you step into a hole.
- Slip-and-fall accidents, which occur when you slip on grease, liquids or other slippery substances.
A few simple dos and don’ts can help you avoid falls:
- Do pay close attention to what you are doing and where you are walking.
- Do watch out for hazards such as obstacles in aisles and walkways, unsafe stairways, uneven floors and pathways, slick surfaces, patches of ice and bad lighting.
- Do inspect ladders for safety before you use them.
- Do check stairways for loose or missing railings, broken stairs and clutter.
- Do use the handrails when going up or down stairs.
- Do wear sturdy shoes with nonskid soles.
- Do keep work areas and the floors in your home clean and clear of clutter.
- Do inform your supervisor at work if you spot potential hazards that may cause someone to fall.
- Do be aware of any surface you are walking on and if you can’t correct problems with it, be careful.
- Don’t stand on boxes or chairs instead of a safe ladder.
- Don’t carry loads that are too heavy for you to handle.
- Don’t carry objects that are so large they block your vision.
- Don’t leave electrical cords, hoses or piping in walkways or across doorways.
- Don’t rush, especially if you are going up or down stairs.
- Don’t ignore potential hazards.
If you are injured in an accident caused by a fall you can protect yourself and your legal rights to compensation.
- Do remain calm and call for help.
- Do report your accident as soon as possible to a store manager, landlord, homeowner or any other person in charge of the facility or grounds where you fell.
- Do see a medical professional as soon as possible even if your injuries appear minor.
- Do keep records of your doctor’s visits and save receipts from any medical equipment or pharmaceutical purchases.
- Do keep records of any missed days of work, missed wages and any other damages your fall caused.
- Do take photos of the exact place where you fell, including the scene around you and any conditions that may have caused you to fall.
- Do make notes of conditions in the area where you fell, including the specific cause of your accident.
- Do collect the names and contact information of any witnesses.
- Do place the shoes and clothing you were wearing at the time of your fall in a safe storage area.
- Do contact an experienced personal injury attorney before you talk to an insurance company or sign any papers.
- Don’t panic.
- Don’t engage in emotional or angry conversations with the property owner, manager or any other person in charge.
- Don’t miss doctor’s appointments. If you do, the opposing party in your case may use it against you to argue that you were not really hurt.
- Don’t speak to anybody from the insurance company representing the party at fault in your accident before consulting a lawyer.
- Don’t sign any insurance papers or agree to a settlement until you get legal advice. Otherwise you may give up your rights to be compensated for pain and suffering, medical bills and lost wages.
- Don’t hesitate to get legal advice. Most states have a statute of limitations on filing a lawsuit in a personal injury case. In New York, the limit generally is three years. If the defendant is a government body, you must give notice within 90 days.