Slip and fall accidents are often brushed off as nothing more than embarrassing occurrences, but as any victim of a slip and fall incident will tell you, embarrassment is the least of their concerns. Slips, trips, and falls often result in head injuries, soft tissue injuries, spinal cord injuries, and broken bones. Each of these types of harms can cause chronic pain and lead to missed work and extensive medical bills. For these reasons and more, if you were involved in a slip and fall accident in Wyoming, it would be in your best interests to contact a slip and fall injury lawyer. If your injuries prevent you from working and result in mounting medical expenses, the right attorney can investigate the incident, prove liability, and help you recover compensation for harms done to you.
How Slip and Fall Accidents Happen
Contrary to popular belief, slip and fall accidents are not always the result of clumsiness. Rather, they often stem from negligence on the part of the property owner or occupier. The top four common causes of slip, trips, and falls are as follows:
- Poor Surface Conditions: Uneven sidewalks or floor tiles, hidden steps that have no warnings, recently mopped or waxed floors, potholes, loose floorboards and mats or rugs, spilled liquids, and items lying in the middle of aisles are all common causes of slip and fall accidents. These are all conditions of which property owners should be aware, and which they should either provide a warning for or correct. Failure to provide adequate warning or to correct a dangerous condition can pose a liability threat.
- Poor Environmental Conditions: Sometimes, the surface may be fine but the items that lay across the surface, or the surrounding environment, may pose an unreasonable hazard. Some such hazards include cords stretching across the length of the floor, debris lying in the middle of the surface, open desks or cabinet drawers, poor or bright light that makes it difficult to discern what lies ahead, and unexpected transitions from one type of flooring to another (such as carpet to hardwood). Depending on the property owner’s duty of care to the victim (which we will explain more in depth below), owners or occupiers may be liable for damages caused by environmental conditions.
- Ice or Snow Buildup: Again, depending on one’s duty to the injured party, property owners or occupiers may be obligated to salt their sidewalks and outdoor surfaces and to plow any snow buildup.
- Ladders and Stairs: Ladders and stairs are some of the most hazardous conditions one can have on his or her property. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, more than 164,000 individuals are treated in the emergency room for injuries sustained in ladder fall incidences every year. Approximately 300 die in the United States each year due to falls from ladders. Most ladder deaths occur after falls of 10 feet or less. According to the BBC, more than 1,000 people die each year due to falls down the stairs, and more than 100,000 people are treated for injuries due to these types of falls. Studies suggest that poor lighting and carpet pattern can increase a person’s odds of falling down the stairs.
A slip and fall injury can happen anywhere and at any time. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, the majority of falls occur at home. Slip and fall accidents are also often characterized by many of the same factors, some of which are controllable and some of which are not. Some such factors include the following:
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Lower body weakness
- Difficulties walking or maintaining balance
- Vision problems
- Use of medications, such as sedatives, tranquilizers, or antidepressants
- Inadequate footwear
- Foot pain
- Broken or uneven steps
- Missing handrails
- Loose or peeling carpet or floorboards
Unfortunately, you cannot sue anyone for falls that occur in your own home (unless you rent – then you may be able to file a claim against your landlord) or that occurred as a result of vitamin deficiency, drug use, or other personal factors. If your accident occurs in public, however, or in another person’s home, and if it occurs as a result of poor property maintenance, you may be able to sue a third party for liability.
Liability in Slip and Fall Accidents
Ultimately, a slip and fall injury claim is a personal injury claim. As with all personal injury claims, you must be able to prove that the defendant acted negligently and that his or her negligence caused the accident that resulted in your harms. The general idea behind the theory of negligence is that the property owner must exercise a reasonable duty of care to prevent injuries from occurring on his or her property. When it comes to premises liability torts, the level of care a property must exercise depends on a person’s status as a visitor.
Wyoming law recognizes three classes of visitors:
- Invitees: An invitee is a person who was either invited onto the land for the purpose of doing business or who is a member of the public who entered the land for the purpose for which the land was intended to be used. Invitees may include shoppers, contractors, or visitors to public parks.
- Licensees: Wyoming law recognizes two types of licensees: invited and uninvited. Both types have permission to be on the property, whether that permission is express or implied. Those who are uninvited are assumed to be there under reasonable circumstances. Licensees may include door-to-door salespeople, delivery people, or mail people.
- Trespassers: Trespassers do not have permission, either express or implied, to be on a person’s property and are there under unreasonable or illegal circumstances.
Wyoming landowners owe invitees and licensees the highest duty of care. Whereas some states require land possessors or owners to show licensees only a minimal duty of care, Wyoming recognizes that invitees and licensees are on the same level – they both have permission to be on a property. Therefore, landowners or occupiers owe individuals who fall into either category the duty to maintain reasonably safe conditions in view of all circumstances.
The only duty that a Wyoming property owner has to trespassers is the duty to not cause willful or wanton injury. Owners or occupiers do not have to maintain reasonably safe conditions in case a person trespasses, nor do they have to provide trespassers with ample warning of dangerous or possibly dangerous conditions.
When trying to determine if another party can be held liable for your injuries, ask yourself this: Did you have permission to be on the property? If so, the landowner or occupier should have taken reasonable measures to prevent harm from befalling you.
Breach of Duty
If the landowner did not take reasonable measures to keep you safe from harm on his or her property, and if you were either an invitee or a licensee on the property, the landowner may be guilty of breach of duty. To prove breach of duty, you should be able to show each of the following to be true:
- The defendant had ownership or responsibility for the maintenance of the premises in question
- A dangerous condition existed
- The property owner should have reasonably known about the dangerous condition
- The dangerous condition caused your injuries
Though these elements may seem simple to prove, the second and the third typically give plaintiffs of slip and fall injury claims the most trouble. An experienced slip and fall lawyer can lend the resources necessary to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incident and gather the evidence needed to back the claim.
A Slip and Fall Injury Can Be Costly
Too many people do not approach slip and fall accidents with the gravity they deserve. However, slip and fall incidents are one of the leading causes of personal injury torts brought to court each year. This is because the injuries associated with these seemingly trivial incidents are costly and life-altering. Below are just a few stats pulled from the CDC’s website that prove just how devastating slip and falls can be:
- Over 800,000 individuals are hospitalized a year due to a slip and fall injury.
- Most slip and falls result in head injury or hip fracture.
- Every year, nearly 3 million elderly individuals are hospitalized due to fall injuries.
- More than 95 percent of hip fractures that U.S. hospitals treat each year are the result of falling sideways.
- Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries. In 2015, falls cost the U.S healthcare system more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid took over more than 75 percent of these costs.
As you can see, suffering a slip and fall injury is no laughing matter – in fact, such injuries are far from it. If you or a loved one is the victim of a slip and fall accident, you know such injuries can detrimentally affect your life. If you have not done so already, contact a slip and fall injury attorney regarding your case. You may be able to recover compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial harms with the help of your slip and fall injury lawyer. To schedule your free, no-obligation consultation, contact The Wyoming Advocates at 307-466-0003 or chat online with a live attorney from our homepage today.